ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County Schools Assistant Superintendent Tanya Head visited with the Elizabethtown Rotary Club on Wednesday and spoke about reading and why reading is important.
She began by sharing good news with the group that teachers are getting a raise this year.
Her main topic for the afternoon was the importance of literacy and reading.
“It is really important we do everything we can to battle illiteracy,” said Head.
She explained that up through the third grade students are taught phonics, sight words and other techniques for reading. Head said that by third grade students are reading to learn.
“Why the urgency about reading? Why is reading important? Many children get to the third grade and cannot read,” said Head.
She said that ultimately, the inability to read can lead to students falling behind academically and/or dropping out of school.
Head said there is new legislation now that says if a student cannot read by the third grade, they cannot advance to the fourth grade. Students must be able to read by fourth grade.
She said that two-thirds of students who are not proficient in reading by fourth grade end up in jail by the time they are adults if there is no intervention.
Head gave the club some sobering statistics: The national average of folks who are not proficient in reading is 68 percent. Head gave a break down statistically of the demographics of that group: The demographics show 84 percent are African American; 81 percent are Indian; 82 percent are Hispanic; 51 percent are Asian and 58 percent are nonwhite.
Head told the group that nearly a billion people have entered the 21st century and cannot read.
Head said that students who perform the highest on standardized reading tests read at least one hour a day home. She said the students that tend to score the lowest on standardized reading tests tend to spend the least amount of time reading at home. Head said the lower performing students also tend not to have as great of access to reading materials in the home as well.
Head also talked about the Give Five Read Five campaign. The program is endorsed by State School Superintendent June Atkinson and is designed to help put at least five books in hands of students for the summer.
“We had phenomenal results,” Head said. “Our kids went home with five books. Some kids went home with more based on how many books their school collected.”
The program accepts new or slightly used books and financial donations. Head said the goal was to collect 2,500 books.
“We collected 7,225 books that we sent home with children for summer reading. As a result the state superintendent gave us a new literacy program free,” said Head.
The new program is called the MyON Literacy Program. The focus of the program is on reading and writing and will be made available to students beginning August 1. Head said through the internet-based program students will have unlimited access to books.
She said the way the new program works is students are asked a series of questions to learn their interests and the system will store the information for the child. Next, the program will ask the student to take a placement exam and then gives them books to read based on the results. Head said staff has the option to turn on or turn off a quiz that appears at the end of each book.
“Reading every day matters. Getting kids into a routine to read at home is important,” said Head.
She said parents can support their child by reading with their child and by having their child read to them.
Head said there are some summer opportunities for students who need to work on their reading skills. Migrant summer camps are being offered at Tar Heel Middle School and East Arcadia School.
Summer reading camps are being offered at Dublin Primary School and Elizabethtown Primary School for grades 1-3.