At the beginning of June, State Superintendent June Atkinson launched the READ NC campaign in anticipation of the end of the school year.
Area school officials support the initiative which encourages parents to keep their children reading throughout the summer months and even provides a Web site where parents can find books that are appropriate for their child’s reading level.
Research shows that there is a regression in reading skills during the summer, according to Pat Widdowson, assistant superintendent for Surry County Schools. However, educators also point out that there are simple ways for parents to help combat this.
“Educators give parents tips for reading with and to their children through reading comprehension bookmarks, plus schools have created videos about strategies for supporting students learning at home,” said Widdowson.
“If we don’t continue reading in the summer we lose so much,” said Vickie Cameron, executive director of curriculum and instruction for Mount Airy City Schools. “Parents should continue to take their children to the library, read to their children a few minutes each day, having their children read to them a few minutes each day and model reading. They should let them see their parents reading.”
“If you keep them reading and interested in reading, they don’t come back to school dreading the whole reading process,” said Chad Beasley, principal at J. J. Jones Intermediate School. “You don’t want them to lose those skills.”
Educators are excited about the effect READ NC could have on encouraging kids to read over the summer. End of Grade test results for reading tests all come with a lexile score. The score is used to determine the reading level of each child, meaning it should be easier for parents to identify appropriate books. They can simply go to the READ NC Web site and search for books based on their lexile level.
“We want children to choose materials that are on their level and to go above that. It kind of meshes with the grade level and we want to motivate those children to read to that level. It gives us a place to start with that child,” said Cameron. “We want children to feel comfortable with their reading. We don’t want to get them to a frustrating level.”
Especially in the elementary levels, schools encourage parents to spend time reading with their children and asking questions about reading material. They believe that it is important to foster an appreciation of reading at a young age in the hopes that it will continue later in life.
“If we can ingrain that love of reading, it opens the world to them,” said Cameron. “We just want the children to develop that love of reading that will carry them through as a life-long skill. We’ve got to train them early to become good readers.”
“Some parents read with their child but don’t know what questions to ask. Whenever there’s a teachable moment we need to ask good questions,” said Widdowson. “Parents of any age child need to make sure environmental print is something they make available such as reading billboards, video game instructions or magazines. Reading is just a part of life.”
“It’s not about the test scores - it’s about developing that love for reading. The more they read, the better they’re going to get,” said Beasley.
An emphasis in both the city and county school systems is to help maintain an interest in reading in middle and high school students. Administrators encourage parents to help their children find something about which they are passionate. This can be novels but could also include magazines, non-fiction or other genres.
“You must find what they’re passionate about, what they love. You just want them to read for pleasure. All parents know ... their children and that is the best motivator,” said Widdowson.
“We need to look at their individual likes, look at what is good literature for children, look at self-selected literature, and we need to allow them to read,” said Cameron. “We teach all these good reading skills and strategies but we don’t give them time to read. It’s important that you build in that time for children.”
Both school systems have put efforts in place to provide information and reading materials for students to take home at the end of the school year. Surry County Schools received complementary safety information from Scholastic this year which teachers sent home with students.
“In past years we have sent reading materials home in a very calculated way,” said Widdowson, noting the change to using materials from Scholastic this year arose from a lack of funds. “Several schools put together packets on their own.”
Students participating in the Summer Reading Institutes at B. H. Tharrington Primary, Jones Intermediate and Mount Airy Middle schools will all receive reading materials at the end of the program.
“We hope this gets parents excited about reading with their kids. Having materials available will make a difference,” said Beasley, who added that starting this fall the prize chest for Positive Behavior Intervention and Support will be full of books instead of toys at his school. “We want to give them materials to have more access to be able to read.”
Administrators from both school systems were quick to point out that students need to know how read well in order to function in the world. They will have to be able to read materials from different genres, not just fiction and non-fiction, but technical manuals as well.
“They read every day. It’s a basic foundation for a productive life,” said Beasley.
“It’s so important for children to read something during the summer. We just have to keep reading to become good readers. Conversation is so important because they think they’re reading for a purpose,” said Widdowson. “If we give our children the gift of reading, they can do anything.”
More information about the READ NC campaign, including access to a searchable database of books and a way to find out if local libraries carry those books, is available at www.ncpublicschools.org/accountability/lexiles.
Contact Morgan Wall at email@example.com or 719-1929.