Strategies for Children’s Literacy
The promotion of children’s literacy is an ongoing project in many communities, mine included.
There is not one “silver bullet” in solving this issue. Children’s literacy is an ongoing – never completely resolved issue. As one group of children moves to a higher age group and on to middle school or high school – another younger group is coming into the education system. No where in this program is there room for a sigh of relief – and a sense of a job that is finished. This is an perpetual task that comes daily with the new challenges of new faces. Victory is celebrated one child at a time.
Working with children’s literacy is a group effort involving many role players. These key people come from our public school system, the local library, family members, local government, state government, federal government, corporations, faith based organizations, and concerned volunteer citizens. The method of children’s literacy efforts are as varied as the individuals who conduct the literacy efforts. Methods range from structured large non profit groups with organized plans and methods to address children’s literacy – to as informal as a parent reading a child a story at home.
Family strategies are both home based and outreach based. Home based includes reading to their own children on a regular basis, ensuring age appropriate books are available to their children, allowing children to rad to the parents and practice reading skills, and consistently encouraging children to read on a regular basis. Reading with the children not only helps the child develop skills, it also affords the opportunity for some special family bonding that can not be found in front of the TV set or playing a computer game. Some families take their efforts in children’s literacy a step further by volunteering to read at schools, libraries of churches.
Dr. Weiss conducted an School Transition Study. Part of her findings were, “family involvement increasing children’s feelings about literacy, which in turn improves their literacy performance.”
Faith Based Initiative Strategies
Some faith based organizations are offering facilities for community reading programs. These groups are actively soliciting book donations from companies and individuals. Many of the faith organizations provide countless volunteers to other community and school based reading programs.
Communities are actively getting involved with children’s literacy programs. From providing facilities to hold after school reading programs, elected officials volunteering for reading programs, funding reading programs through civic budgets, and assisting with drafting grant request proposals.
In 2002 Marianne Hurst reported about several cities trying a new program of a common book to be read by all communities at the same time. (Hurst). This would encourage dialogue about the book at schools the following day and a sense of camaraderie with the children. This program was done with all aged children – including high schools.
Beyond the basic curriculum all schools are required to have in place and follow – may schools have gone above and beyond the basic requirements. Setting up visual displays around school to encourage reading. Allowing older siblings to come to the younger classes and read to the class. School boards are being very receptive to coordinating efforts with community organizations.
School boards are working with libraries to ensure funding is released to purchase books that will encourage children to read at all grade levels. Coordinating efforts and work on joint grant reques proposals to seek the additional funding needed for an effective Children’s Literacy Program.
Schools are coming up with creative reward ideas for younger grades to encourage reading. Little things like; five minutes extra recess for finishing a book, head of the school lunch line for a student who reads a book out load to their class, special recognition on a bulletin board near front entrance, a gift of a book for the child to take home. All these are low cost or no cost initiatives that encourage and recognize a child’s efforts.
Many schools open their doors and schedules to non profit groups to come and read to class groups and give books to children. Read A Story is an organization that comes to schools for these type programs. This organization also gives books to new mothers and preschools. (Read A Story).
Federal Government Strategy
In 2002 the federal government created a grant funding program for children’s literacy. The purpose is “to support the development of pre-reading development (including oral language skills) and professional development for teachers in research based instructional strategies.” (NAEYC).
This grant program is in addition to the normal educational funding provided through the federal budget. The US Department of Education has multiple programs and policies in place to promote children’s literacy through the public school system.
Several First Ladies of the President have made children’s literacy a priority in their own agendas.
Their voice brings attention on a nation wide scale to this issue. Mrs. Barbara Bush spent countless hours at public schools reading to children. Hillary Clinton made mention several times of the children’s literacy battle in public statements. Laura Bush – a former teacher and librarian put children’s literacy as her number one agenda item. Currently Michelle Obama in her first few weeks as
First Lady has been seen several times on network television reading to young children in public schools.
There is no one single tool that can remove the issue of children’s literacy from our scope of responsibility. The challenge is addressed and solved one child at time – one book at time – one voice at a time. Together all of the initiatives and strategies put in place will keep our children reading and improving their educational abilities. We all need to grab a book – get a young minds attention – and read to them – or have them read to us. Where’s your book?
Hurst, M.. (2002). Education Week. A Novel Idea: Joining City Reading Programs. Retrieved February 13, 2009, from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/123
NAEYC. (2002). Early Reading First. A New Federal Literacy Program for Preschool-aged Children. Retrieved February 13, 2009, from http://www.naeyc.org/policy/federal/pdf/erf_q;a.pdf
Read A Story (2008). Readastory.org. Providing Stories and Books for Children Retrieved February 13, 2009, from http://www.readastory.org
Weiss. H. (2005). Harvard. Family Involvement Promotes Children’s Literacy. Retrieved February 13, 2009, from http://www.uknow.gse.harvard.edu/community/CF2-3.html