Have you visited AdLit.org? It’s part of the WETA Web site family from Washington, DC, Public Television. It’s a great resource on adolescent literacy for teachers, parents, and librarians working with teens.

The AdLit home page as I write features a piece on “Background Knowledge and Reading Comprehension.” For young people to be truly literate, they need more than the ability to simply decode the words they see on a page or a screen. They need to know the basics of the things being discussed. On which continent of the world, for example, is Iraq or Bolivia? What’s the difference between a reptile and an amphibian? Which war came first, the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812? More middle and high school students than you think have no clue.

Most important, students can find all these facts through Google, but can they explain them in their own words? An awful lot of students in 2008 subscribe to a copy-and-paste-without-really-reading-anything mentality.

Even though librarians don’t teach young people the knowledge they need to succeed in school, it’s important for library folks to understand how kids and teens learn and what they need to know to become truly literate. The AdLit.org site is a good one to read and keep in your bag of resources – in other words, it helps you build up your background knowledge about how young people learn and what they need to know – and to pass along to parents and others working with middle and high schoolers.

I’ve mentioned them before, but remember WETA’s other two literacy sites: Reading Rockets for pre-readers and beginning readers, and Colorin Colorado to encourage literacy skills in Spanish-speaking families.

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