Emphasis goes above, beyond expected
A growing emphasis in the state on child literacy is encouraging Vance County elementary schools to focus an increasing amount of attention on reading.
This school year, North Carolina’s Reach to Achieve program takes effect. Under the new program, third-graders will be held back if they do not demonstrate reading proficiency based on a state administered reading comprehension test.
All 10 elementary schools use best practices that designated reading time in the classrooms and implement various programs to track students’ progress by recording the books they read and the scores they receive on reading assessments.
But many schools go above and beyond these best practices.
At L.B. Yancey, Lanisha Daye started a reading campaign this year called Bounce that sets a school-wide reading goal at 44,588 books.
Daye, the assistant principal, invited Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill alumni and one Duke women’s basketball player to speak to Yancey students Friday morning about the importance of reading.
Jameka Floyd, a UNC alumna who grew up in Kittrell, attended Zeb Vance Elementary and played basketball at Southern Vance High School.
“To have success in life and in college, you must read well,” Floyd told the group of second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-graders seated in Yancey’s gym.
Principal David Westbrook at Carver Elementary said he is getting a head start on reading remediation for students who are reading below grade level. These students receive 45 minutes of extra instruction time to help them catch up.
“That is something that I was determined to do because if they are behind it is extremely difficult to get them where they need to be,” Westbrook said.
He also encourages parents to read books that are on the child’s level. He said children only become more frustrated when they are asked to read books that are too advanced.
On Thursday night, Zeb Vance Elementary held a reading night for parents to learn about the new legislation and ways to help their children become better readers.
“Reading now isn’t just about recalling words, it’s about comprehension,” said Anne Garrison, principal at Zeb Vance. “We told parents to make sure they are asking their kids questions about what they just read.”
Garrison also started a book drive to provide reading materials for kids who may not have access to many books at home.
“We asked our kids to bring in books that they no longer use,” Garrison said. “Don’t give up books you need. But if you have a book you can spare, bring it to school.”
Even small strategies can make an enormous difference in making kids excited about reading.
At New Hope Elementary, Principal Harold Thompson Jr. is using a racecar theme to challenge his students to reach their reading goals.
A racecar track adjacent to the school’s main office monitors the percentage of students in each classroom who reach their monthly reading goal.
The board of directors for the United Way of Vance County is working to promote these reading initiatives with a campaign targeted at third-grade students.
“We want the United Way to be the catalyst to bring other people to the table who are already doing things for the children,” said Michele Burgess, a member of the board.
Burgess said they want to connect the academic resources within churches and civic clubs to the third-grade classrooms.
“We really want this to be a community building project,” Burgess said. “Its something positive our community can join together on. And we can look back and see the progress we made.”
She said the next step is to plan a meeting between elementary school administrators, the United Way board and the third-grade teacher to assess the greatest needs.
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