What are you Reading?
At the meeting July 18, members of the Read Aloud committee in Pocahontas County discussed the new school year with special guest, Read Aloud director May Kay Bond.
Bond explained the new Read Aloud slogan, ﾓWhat are you Reading?ﾔ and her thoughts on ways to increase reading in students and parents in the county.
ﾓWe are trying to do no less than change the educational climate in West Virginia,ﾔ Bond said. ﾓAll of us need to be engaged in the dialogue; ﾑWhat are you Reading?ﾒﾔ
Read Aloud is most identified as a program which puts volunteers in classrooms, reading books to students once a week. Bond said there are several programs, in addition, that promote reading.
ﾓWe want our kids to hear good readers read, but we also provide access to the equipment,ﾔ she said. ﾓThrough Highlights, through books and through book trunks which we can loan to schools on a semester or a year basis. You can use them to augment the school library or the classroom library.ﾔ
The programs are utilized to not only improve reading skills of students, but to also provide children with positive role models.
ﾓWe have a program called Life Stories that we have used at the middle school. It is a series of biographies,ﾔ Bond said. ﾓWe want children to look at how people choose to live their lives. We want them to identify with people beyond Kim Kardashian, so we developed a book of Life Stories.ﾔ
Bond said one reason children are not avid readers is because it is not discussed on a regular basis. She gave the example that her son, who is athletic, was always asked about his athletic prowess, but not his grades or reading interests.
ﾓStrangers thought nothing of coming up to him and saying ﾑI bet you play basketball,ﾒﾔ she said. ﾓThey didnﾒt ask him who his favorite author was. They didnﾒt ask him his favorite book or what he was reading. He got kudos for athletics. He didnﾒt get kudos for the thing that is going to propel him through life and that is reading.ﾔ
Bond shared a chart with four points: Start early, model good skills, give kids access to the equipment and keep the chatter going. She said these points both apply in reading and athletics, although focus has been more on athletics than reading, especially in West Virginia.
Last year, West Virginia had the largest reading gap between men and women. The state now has the third largest reading gap. Bond said there is a 13 point reading gap between eighth grade males and females.
A lack of reading skills follows a child throughout life, possibly leading to a life of crime.
ﾓThere was an Annie E. Casey [Foundation] study released and they found that students that are not reading on grade level by third grade are more likely to dropout,ﾔ Bond said. ﾓNow, you follow that further, if you dropout and you have poor reading skills, you are more likely to be incarcerated. California and Texas project the number of prison cells they are going to need based on the third and fourth grade reading scores of their students.ﾔ
West Virginia reading test scores have fallen below the national average and continue to decline, a statistic that scares Bond.
ﾓI have heard it said by no less than Jim Trelease who wrote the Read Aloud Handbook. Neither one of us can source it but itﾒs a pretty dramatic statement that you are more likely to wind up in prison if you canﾒt read than you are to develop cancer if you smoke.ﾔ
Bond shared a chart comparing West Virginia reading scores with the national average, and discovered that in 1998, West Virginia was above the average. That was a year when Read Aloud was strong in the school systems.
ﾓNow, was that because of Read Aloud? No. Were we a factor? Were we somebody in the culture mixing it up? Yes,ﾔ she said.
Bond said with a new chairman of the Pocahontas County committee, Sally Atkins, the Read Aloud program has an opportunity to grow and reach more students.
The program is currently in Marlinton Middle School, Marlinton Elementary School and Hillsboro Elementary School.
The committee, including program coordinators Becky Spencer, Melodie Wallace and Jay Miller, discussed bringing Read Aloud into Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, as well as finding a date to train volunteers.
To volunteer to be a Read Aloud reader, contact Sally Atkins at 304-339-6187 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org