Small Change Can Improve a Child's Reading

Teachers and parents usually call attention to the pictures when they read storybooks to preschool children. But a study published in 2011 suggests that calling attention to the words and letters on the page may help a child's reading. The two-year study compared children who were read to this way in class with children who were not. The children whose teachers most often discussed the print showed clearly higher skills in reading, spelling and understanding. These results were found one year and even two years later.

Shayne Piasta at Ohio State University was an author of the study. She said most preschool teachers would find this method manageable and would need only a small change in the way they teach. They already read storybooks in class. The only difference would be increased attention to the printed text. If you get children to pay attention to letters and words, it makes sense they would do better at word recognition and spelling. But research suggests that very few parents and teachers do this in a systematic way. The report appeared in the journal Child Development. More than 300 children ages four and five were observed for the study.

The children came from poor families and were below average in their language skills. There are different ways that adults can talk to children about print. They can point to a letter and discuss it, and even trace the shape with a finger. They can point out a word. They can discuss the meaning of the print or how the words tell the story. And they can talk about the organization of the print -- for instance, showing how words are written left to right in English.


The Kabul Bank Scandal

A court in Afghanistan recently sentenced former leaders of the country's first private bank to prison. The two men were found guilty of crimes that led to the failure of the Kabul Bank in 2010. Some people say the five-year prison sentences were not enough. The bank failure led to a financial crisis in Afghanistan.

A special three-judge committee of the Afghan Supreme Court decided the case. The court found Kabul Bank's former chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, guilty of stealing $278 million. Former chief executive officer Khalilullah Ferozi was found guilty of stealing $530 million. The judge ordered the two men to repay the stolen money. The former bank officials have been under house arrest for more than a year. They were among 21 Kabul Bank and government employees who were tried and found guilty. The other defendants were given shorter sentences. All have the right to appeal.

The case was considered a test of Afghanistan's new legal system and the government's will to fight corruption. The special court did not charge several other influential people linked to the bank as shareholders or borrowers. These people included a brother of President Hamid Karzai and a brother of the first vice president.The Afghan government rescued the bank and renamed it the New Kabul Bank. Nations that help support Afghanistan, led by the United States, have promised billions of dollars in aid after NATO forces withdraw by the end of 2014. But they are demanding that the government bring corruption under control.