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What's Lucy Reading?

Lucy Friedman

Lucy Friedman is president of ExpandED Schools.  

Reading an article in The Atlantic, “The Diminishing Role of Art in Children’s Lives,” a statement stood out: “Extensive evidence suggests that exposure to art in school has long-term academic and social benefits for kids, especially those who are economically disadvantaged.” This is not news, per se, but what follows are links to research showing that over the past two decades, the amount of time kids spend drawing in school has decreased, and along with it, the quality and complexity of their artwork. This decrease is true for other enrichments, as well, and is more pronounced in schools serving children in poverty. This inequity drives our work in increasing access to education enrichments, and I couldn’t help but think how a longer school day provides greater opportunities for children to have hands-on experiences in the arts, as well as other social-emotional building activities.

Summer is always a great time to get in pleasure reading, and Paulette Jiles’s News of the World transported me to another time and place. Set in post-Civil War Texas, it tells the story of a retired army captain and a young girl he takes into custody. What I found equally fascinating, however, was the story of how information gathering has evolved over the centuries. Captain Kidd, the main character, earns money reading the news to local audiences, many of whom are illiterate and thus dependent on this service. As we grapple today with how our news is delivered, it was interesting to read how a Civil War captain got access to news from around the world and then selected articles (or curated in current lingo) for his local listeners. 
Our commitment to social and emotional learning (SEL) continues to grow. National attention is increasingly focused on developing SEL initiatives in school-based programs, and this is a good thing. However, a publication recently put out by Princeton and the Brookings Institution (The Future of Children) warns that in order to prevent SEL from becoming a “bygone fad,” we must invest in research and development, and create assessment systems that are “usable, feasible and psychometrically sound” in order to successfully change policy and get lasting support. 



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