07/10/05 — Teachers work to strengthen literacy skills

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Teachers work to strengthen literacy skills

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on July 10, 2005 2:00 AM

Wayne County Public Schools K-8 teachers are taking steps to strengthen literacy skills by building reading communities.

One way this is being done is through providing re-sources to instruct children in the classroom. By establishing classroom libraries, teachers and students are better able to access the appropriate materials to guide their students.

In a two-day session recently, teachers learned how to build libraries and research-based strategies by Scholastic Reading Specialist Bern-adette Lambert. "You can't just pick up a book and read to kids. We're looking at ways to integrate literacy into the classroom by giving teachers best practices to implement," she said.

One of the main tasks of an elementary teacher is to teach children to read, said Dr. Willette Wooten, director of federal programs for Wayne County Public Schools. In fact, she said, research shows that one of the reasons children fail to learn to read is lack of exposure to materials, which intensifies the need for libraries in the classroom.

"To practice, you need books," she said. "Thus, the workshop focused on the use of a classroom library."

About 46 K-3 teachers and 30 teachers for grades 3-8 participated in the workshop. Title I lead teacher Karen Small explained that the instruction complements a year-long staff development. For their classroom libraries, teachers will start the year with close to 150 books with a variety of reading levels and genres ranging from fiction to nonfiction.

"The goal of the workshop is to start young children along the path to literacy and a lifelong love of reading," said Dr. Wooten.

In the Nation's Report Card, the U.S. Department of Education's statistics in recent years show that only 32 percent of fourth graders, 22 percent of eighth graders, and 36 percent of twelfth graders are proficient in reading. That is why K-3 are critical years to teach children to read and set them on a path to academic success in later grades.

"This is a new direction, especially with No Child Left Behind. The only way kids are going to be better readers is to read," Lambert said.

Jenny Prather just finished her first year teaching kindergarten at Brogden Primary School. She said the supplemental training will be beneficial.

"I definitely got some new ideas to take back and get them into the story," she said. "For me, the best thing is being able to ask the right questions to get children more involved."

Manning Musgrove, Title 1 reading teacher at Tommy's Road Elementary School, supports the utility of classroom libraries. She said it is important for kids to find something they're interested in, and the more books they have to choose from, the more likely they are to become engaged in reading.