Urgency to Boost Literacy Skills Inspires Superintendent’s Challenge to Students
Target, Scholastic contribute $139,400 in books and book packs to aid holiday launch of district literacy initiative
Aiming to boost reading and writing skills and develop a lifelong love of reading in a school district where fewer than half of students are proficient, Superintendent Jonathan P. Raymond announces a major initiative—starting over the winter break—to advance English Language Arts performance at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10 at H.W. Harkness Elementary School. Harkness is located at 2147 54th Ave.
Joining in the announcement will be representatives from Target stores and Scholastic book publishing who will present the district with $139,400 in books. The books, to be delivered to 17,000 K-6 students at struggling schools, will be available to take home on a regular basis. Target will present Raymond with an oversized check at the event. Scholastic will supply samples of the books schools receive and have its mascot, Clifford, the Big Red Dog, present. Under the program, each school will get:
- Two backpacks per classroom with grade appropriate English materials (1,232 backpacks)
- Two backpacks per grade level with grade appropriate Spanish materials for classes with Spanish-speaking students (504 backpacks)
- Two backpacks per grade level with grade appropriate English Language Learner materials (504 backpacks)
Raymond is challenging students to begin immediately by reading a book over the district’s winter break (Dec. 21 to Jan. 3) and urging parents to help their children set aside time for reading during the holidays. “We want students and community to get started as soon as possible in making reading part of what we do every day so students value and practice a habit
that will enrich their lives.” He is also calling on them to keep records of their reading with prizes awarded to schools and pupils completing the most books on a monthly basis through May.
In addition, Raymond will challenge adults to read and post their reading lists and comments on the school district web site. “We’ve got to be readers all around, and model the behavior we want to practice.
“Student success depends on the proficiency of their reading and writing skills,” Raymond said. “Gains have been made over recent years, but the progress is too slow. We’re failing major groups of students.” He notes that while nearly 67 percent of white students are proficient in English Language Arts, only 38 percent of African Americans are considered proficient. For Latino students, the rate is slightly better—almost 41 percent are proficient. Only 36 percent of English Learners are proficient in reading and writing.
“Today’s presentation by our generous partners, Target and Scholastic, symbolize the community partnerships and engagement we need to ensure every student can read and write, and develop a lifelong love of reading and learning,” Raymond state.
He observes the district has formed an action group to begin working with schools to incorporate literacy skills into all subject areas and across all grades. “Reading and writing have to be a part of every subject if we are to raise achievement,” Raymond said. The superintendent said another key part of the initiative will be aggressively recruiting volunteers to work with
students as mentors and tutors.