Here’s what data and experience tell us about closing the word gap and helping West Virginia students to succeed, says Christy Schwartz, of the West Virginia Department of Education’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading:
— Keep reading aloud to children from birth to adolescence, and keep educating families about the need to do it. Reading aloud does more for vocabulary development than talking with them, which is also good.
— Encourage teachers to read to students daily.
“If children are responding well to a book you’re reading, encourage them to find another in the series, in that genre or by the same author that the teacher might read with them,” she said.
Daily read aloud puts children almost a year ahead of children who are not read to every day, literacy specialist Christy Schwartz told a room full of Read Aloud West Virginia volunteers at their fifth annual conference in July.
Schwartz works for the state Department of Education’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading. She and her colleagues support county school systems and teachers to ensure children are reading on grade level by third grade. They focus on school readiness, attendance, learning opportunities outside of school and high-quality instruction.
“I’m really excited by all the connections and the way that our work corresponds with one another,” she told representatives from local Read Aloud chapters meeting at Stonewall Resort July 23 and 24.
Read Aloud leaders were there to connect and share ideas and inspiration for the coming school year. This annual summit has proven to be an invaluable gathering for the organization and its local groups.
Schwartz reminded volunteers of the need they fill.
West Virginia has high rates of poverty, and years of research confirm that poverty is a risk factor for many problems, including poor school readiness. Education researchers have zeroed in on oral language skills.
“It is the foundation for literacy,” Schwartz said.