Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Greenville City Schools – Reading Matters By Laura Bemus

Like developing anything important, building better students requires providing the right environment. School is filled with teachers, staff, and materials that serve the purpose of encouraging students to learn. Frequently the question is asked by parents, grandparents and community members, “What can we do we do outside of the classroom to encourage learning?”

Having books at home encourages students to spend time reading, and learning. Richard Allington, author of Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap, states that a handful of self-selected books could have a dramatic impact on a child’s learning over time.

In a multi-year study, Dr. Allington discovered that just adding 12 self-selected books to a home every summer can have the same learning impact that summer school offers. When books are convenient, it is more likely those books will be used by the students and parents. It creates a home environment that shows that reading is encouraged, especially when there are books within easy reach at all times.

Greenville City Schools have programs in place to give students continuous access to books and to help families develop home libraries, so students have easy access to books at all times, even when school is not in session. We have an annual Family Reading Night. This year it is scheduled for May 7th at Greenville Elementary School. It is the night that we kick off summer reading and provide books to students to encourage reading and having access to books at home. The PTA and community partner with the school district to make this event a successful night with nearly 100% participation.

Here are some reasons having access to books is important:

  • Topics of their choosing – Everyone is more likely to read books about topics that interest them. Teachers and parents work together to build a home library of books that will encourage children to read not only through the summer but also during the school year.
  • Familiarity with the material – Children enjoy things that are familiar. They love their favorite toys and clothes. That same love of the familiar can apply to books, especially a favorite character in a series. A beloved character can expose them to new vocabulary over the course of that series, elevating their understanding of the language.
  • Builds family literacy – Reading can be contagious. Once a family member develops a passion for reading, it can spread to siblings and others in the home. This has a multiplying effect of bringing more books into the home, creating a virtuous cycle of overall improved literacy for the family.
  • Improved academic performance – Research shows that more books in the home leads to greater academic performance. Owning 500 books can add 3.2 years of educational gains over time, according to Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Even the addition of one book can have an impact on educational gains.

As families get ready for Kindergarten registration (April 2-4 at Greenville Elementary School), during days off of school, including snow days, summer and weekends, reading is the most important way to help students be successful for school and their future.

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