Rock ‘n’ Read: New program improves reading through singing

Amina Scott looked intently at the karaoke screen on her school bus as she softly sang “Major Pain,” one of her favorite songs about a puppy. At another part of the bus, other kids sang about fish sticks and cupcakes. But this wasn’t typical karaoke; these kids are working to improve their reading skills.The Rock ‘n’ Read Project, a new nonprofit that started operating this summer, uses special software that aims to improve users’ reading abilities while singing. The organization offered an initial 8-week pilot program free of charge to youth programs at the North Community YMCA as well at Jordan Park serving Minneapolis Public School summer school students, which concludes August 13.“It’s a good discipline to connect with music as a part of literacy,” said former city councilmember Don Samuels, who serves on the program’s board. “The kids are learning to read without realizing they are.”The University of South Florida found that in a study from 2005-2008, students from three different school districts and four different grade levels consistently outperformed their peers when using the program over a three-year period. Continue Reading

Digital divide: External resources needed to help teens with technology needs

Amidst shelves of books at Rondo Community Outreach Library in St. Paul, a group of patrons has its eyes fastened to glowing computer screens. It is a scene set in neutrals, with white tables and beige pillars, but the surroundings are not the focus. The snapping of keys and clicking of mice fills the open space as people work and play in this oasis of technology, absorbed in the pixels on their screens.Colorful elastics adorn the wrist of 15-year-old Donquala Patterson, who rests her hand next to a keyboard as she clicks calmly across her screen. A resident of the Rondo neighborhood, she doesn’t have a computer at home and uses one at the library once a week “to look for jobs.”Plenty of young people come in simply to use the public computers, but the library also offers other opportunities just for teens. Continue Reading

Librarians to the health care/insurance literacy rescue

I suspect many readers know, but I was a reference librarian. It’s a funny job where people wonder why you got a Master’s Degree in Library Science when they learned the alphabet in kindergarten. They also wonder why you have to look things up as if an MLIS is going to help you know the population Chicago in 1956. It’s a fun job – people come and ask all sorts of great questions. Even when I was a librarian 15 years ago, people came to the librarian to learn how to use technology and for basic information literacy skills. So I wasn’t surprised to see that the libraries and librarians are getting involved in helping people understand implications and applications of the new health care options. According to Minnesota Public RadioContinue Reading

Grandmas on Facebook: Closing the digital divide on the Leech Lake Reservation

Last week I was on the road with the Blandin Foundation visiting MIRC communities. We stopped in a number of places, including the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Temporary Employment Program. Through MIRC funding, the TEP developed a number of projects, including a computer center and access to digital literacy programs. I have written about the program before – the quick take is that TEP participants now have the opportunity to take digital literacy classes as part of the service that is offered. The lab is also open to other community users. Continue Reading

‘The Alphabet Place’: Amy Unger’s passion for literacy leads to an interactive art exhibit

I am in love with letters. I began walking the six miles of the Central Corridor in St. Paul last March-both the north and south sides of University Avenue, in search of letters. I was photographing images-a blue ‘R’ from a dumpster, a subtle ‘H’ from City Hall, the ‘Q’ from Frogtown Square. A collection of these “alphabet” photographs is currently on display in the children’s area of the Rondo Library.As we choose typefaces, font sizes, text colors and highlighting for our personal communications or projects, the alphabet itself is often overlooked. Continue Reading