Childhood literacy program taking reading to the next level in Washington County, TN

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Studies show less than half of Tennessee’s third and fourth graders are reading on grade level.

A state-wide reading initiative aims to improve childhood literacy in Tennessee public schools.

“Read to be Ready” gets teachers and school involved using a balanced literacy approach to help students be successful in class and in life.

Students in Mishayla Hensley’s first grade class at Boones Creek Elementary School took part in an interactive read along on Wednesday.

“The engagement and just the overall motivation and the engagement of the kids is just so much higher,” said Hensley. 

They are engaging the vocabulary, the comprehension of the reading and the topics they are learning about.

“Their daily tasks at the end of the lesson are so much more detailed,” she said. “Their sentence structure is better and overall, just as a reader and writer, they have come along way from the beginning of the year.”

On Wednesday, students read and learned about space, one of the many science and social studies topics their program tries to focus on.

“One of them was George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson,” said Kelsey Widener, one of Mrs. Hensley’s first grade students as she recalled the presidents she learned about earlier this year.

“Present means now and past means maybe yesterday or a long time ago,” said Dylan Parker, another one of Mrs. Hensley’s students. 

By reading, discussing and writing about what they are learning, the interactive model not only helps them learn to read, but also gain knowledge of the world around them.

“They’re going to be introduced to this through their whole life, all through school,” said Hensley. 

This is only one part of the balanced literacy block of “Read to be Ready.”

“We also are teaching teachers how to do guided reading,” said Melinda Carr, Washington County Schools Curriculum Coordinator, “incorporating independent reading in the classrooms, shared reading opportunities and then again with the phoenics and vocabulary instruction in and out of text.”

This helps build on the foundation for pre-K through third grade students, setting them up for lifelong learning.

“The initiative for the state is that 75% of students will be reading on grade level by the third grade,” said Carr.

The state of Tennessee hopes to reach that goal by the year 2025.

Another goal for Washington County is that students read at home 20 minutes every night.

Carr also points out that books read during the program are high quality and pre-planned to help build knowledge and ensure effectiveness for the students. 

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