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Grissom column: Make reading integral in student’s lives

In keeping with our theme of challenges, the Rowan-Salisbury School System faces the challenge everyday of student, parent, and community literacy. Literacy is defined by J. David Cooper and Nancy D. Kiger (Literacy: Helping Children Construct Meaning, 2006) as “the ability to listen, speak, read, write, and think. This broadened concept of literacy makes it a term that includes all of the communication and calculation skills needed in today’s society.”
Research continues to reinforce that good literacy skills, especially reading, are the foundation for everything else in school ó science, social studies, math, etc. Students who are not reading on grade level by third grade have a much more difficult time catching up later.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System staff are determined and committed to focus on literacy training and delivery to close the gaps between the readers and non-readers in the early grades.
In order to address the area of literacy, the school system has developed a K-8 Literacy Plan. This is in keeping with the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the mandate for proficiency for all students and researched based practices. The plan used by the school system incorporates effective reading instruction that addresses five critical areas:
1) Phonemic awareness
2) Phonics
3) Fluency
4) Vocabulary
5) Comprehension
These five areas were incorporated into the No Child Left Behind Act initiative as the essential components of effective reading instruction. Implementation includes providing workshops on how to teach reading, using on-going assessments for diagnostic purposes, and streamlining the use of effective existing resources.
Teachers are receiving professional training on Reading Foundations sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. This training will provide the solid foundation of knowledge and skills needed to deliver effective reading instruction to all students. Teachers will become more skilled in diagnosing reading deficits and prescribing strategies to address the specific difficulties.
Another challenge for our teachers is that reading must be reinforced at home. With a 43 percent literacy rate in our community, many parents struggle with reading skills and cannot provide the type of support at home that developing readers need to be successful.
Our community has a great literacy program to help adults learn to read or improve their reading skills, but they are unable to reach every adult that is unable to read. There is a need for volunteers to work with struggling readers in our schools ó to reinforce skills taught in the classroom, to listen to the students read, and to read to them.
As an effort to support the school system in their literacy efforts, the mayor of Salisbury, the City Council, the Board of County Commissioners and the Rowan-Salisbury School System Board of Education met last spring to discuss this issue and what could be done by a collective group to emphasize and support reading in the schools.
As a result, the City Council and Board of Commissioners joined together with the public libraries for the Read to Your Child Days during the summer. For five weeks, libraries across the county provided opportunities for children to hear a community leader read to them, receive a free book, register for a library card and register for a free Wii system. All of the events were well attended and the school system’s board and staff appreciate the community interest and support for reading. We hope that more joint efforts will be planned for the future.
It is important that reading become an integral part of students’ lives so they will be lifetime readers. Robyn Jackson from the University of Dayton, Ohio shares some interesting statistics. Ms. Jackson indicates in her research that:
– One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
– 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
– 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
– 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
– 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
With technological advances, many young people and adults are listening to books on tape at a much higher rate than reading the books themselves.
In our school system, our challenge continues to be that we must make sure our students are receiving the skills they need in reading and develop a love of reading at the same time, so they can enjoy the thrill and benefits of books the rest of their lives.
– – –
Dr. Judy Grissom is superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

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