The goal is to get kids reading well by third grade
Published 11:23 am Sunday, February 24, 2013
Everyone knows reading is important, but staff at Albert Lea Area Schools have made reading a big priority.
That’s because if reading isn’t a priority the numbers are pretty grim. Like the fact that 74 percent of third-graders who struggle with reading will still be struggling in 12th grade. The average number of books in the home of a child in poverty? Just 0.5 books.
Then there’s the widely used adage that before third grade a child is learning to read, and after third-grade they’re reading to learn. Albert Lea School District’s Title I coordinator and K-12 reading specialist, Mary Jo Dorman, said she hopes people try to understand the importance of reading.
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“If they’re not reading well by the third grade, it’s highly predictive of their future academic performance,” Dorman said.
One of Dorman’s goals is to get more books in the hands of students, and at home, too, not just at school. She’s applied for grants and acquired boxes of free books to give out to students, so at least they have a few books at home.
The district’s Title I program is another way to help struggling students. It’s a federally funded program that allows for extra teachers at each elementary school who give extra help to students who aren’t meeting grade level in math or reading.
Katie Nielsen, mother of first-grader Alex Nielsen, said Title I has helped her son with his reading skills.
“It’s been going very well,” Nielsen said. “He has improved a lot.”
Nielsen said Alex gets to bring books home each evening. He also won a big prize at the Title I family event held earlier this month. Alex won a basket of books and the chance to have lunch with Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels.
“He’s so excited,” Nielsen said.
The event was held at the Albert Lea Public Library for Title I reading students and their families. Dorman said more than 300 people came, and the school district was able to give away hundreds of books — via grants — to the families.
“We also wanted to get people exposed to the public library,” Dorman said.
She heard from some children that they thought they would have to pay to rent the books, so she was able to explain that they can sign up for a library card and borrow books for free. Dorman said the school also wanted to involve the community, so they had firefighters come and read books and prizes included lunch with the police chief and lunch with the mayor of Albert Lea.
Dorman said Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen has been supportive of the district’s reading efforts. He will sign a proclamation on March 1, in front of a class of first-graders, to promote literacy across Albert Lea. She’s glad that so many people are supportive of reading efforts in the schools.
“We know we have to expose them to as many books as we can,” Dorman said.