The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson saw the need to help schools with students that were struggling, but not dictate how that aid was provided. Title I of the Act stated that grants would be given to schools to help low-income families. The grants would be distributed to the state education agencies (SEA), who would then distribute them to the local education agencies (LEA). The LEAs would then allocate the Title I funds to the appropriate schools, who would spend them at their discretion. Over the years the grants have been spent in a variety of ways, from adding more teachers to classes to purchasing technology to help students learn outside the classroom. However, studies have shown that these methods have limited effects on improving test scores.
[bctt tweet=”The average class size in Ohio elementary schools is just over twenty-one students to one teacher.”]
Many school districts use their title one grants to add paraprofessionals, teachers aides with limited training, to the classes with struggling students. The objective of the aides is to relieve some of the pressure that is put on the teachers to help the students. This may be the case for the teachers, but for the students it is a different story. In Tennessee, Project STAR used funds to add paraprofessionals to the classroom. It was found that adding these aides, while giving teachers more time to focus on the students, did not significantly help with test scores. When asked at the end of the study about smaller class sizes or adding aides, 71% of teachers preferred a smaller class size (Boyd-Zaharias and Pate-Bain, 1998).
Another drawback of utilizing paraprofessionals is the varying degree of training they bring to the classroom. In a 1999 assessment of the Title I program, the U.S. Department of Education found that “paraprofessionals in high-poverty schools tend to have less formal education than those in low-poverty schools, and they are often assigned to teach-sometimes without a teacher present.” The report acknowledges their contributions to the community, but also notes that utilizing them as extra hands to do paperwork or meet with parents should be phased out. It does not directly help students improve their skills, which is the function of a Title I grant.
Even with the addition of other sets of hands and additional time for teachers to be with the students, there is nothing that can substitute the benefits of having smaller classes.
Schools add the aides to help manage the ever-increasing class sizes in some areas of the country. This does give teachers the ability to provide a little more attention to students that are falling behind in reading. However, that attention does not translate into higher scores. The additional time added was, on average, just twenty-five more minutes a day over the course of a week (Rowan, B. and L. F. Guthrie, 1989). Even with the addition of other sets of hands and additional time for teachers to be with the students, there is nothing that can substitute the benefits of having smaller classes. Project STAR also showed that when the number of students in a class rose above eighteen, teachers has less time to spend with lower performing students. This can disproportionately hurt low-income students. According to a 2007 study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the average class size in Ohio elementary schools is just over twenty-one students to one teacher.
The cost of intervention is much higher, and less effective, than the cost of prevention. Utilizing Title I funds on programs that stop the slide from happening, like Kids Read Now, can give local education agencies and schools more fiscal flexibility. The funds saved can then be used for other programs or technology to help students learn math and reading. There are movements to help that money be used for in school WiFi and other methods to secure internet access at student’s homes to further reduce learning gaps. What could you do at your school with more funds?
Kids Read Now is here to stop the summer reading slide and help struggling readers become proficient readers. Our summer reading program produces remarkable results for school districts seeking to raise K-3 reading scores, and we do it for about 10 percent of the cost of traditional intervention programs. Even though Kids Read Now is far less expensive than traditional intervention, we know that school districts must still stretch tight budgets for funding programs. The good news is that funding for the program that raises reading scores is out there, and Kids Read Now can help schools find it.
Here are some places to start!
Title I Funding
The federal government has been contributing Title I funding since 1965. The purpose of these grants is to help schools with large populations of low-income and disadvantaged students boost academic achievement. The U.S. Department of Education states that Title 1 provides “financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.” Assistance for reading programs is part of that deal, too. Title I money can be used for additional instruction in summer reading programs that “extend and reinforce the regular school curriculum.” Kids Read Now also offers free webinars with our expert, Laura Bemus. It is an opportunity to ask your questions to an expert on the application process for Title I funding.
Read more about Title I.
Dollar General Literacy Foundation
Dollar General’s charitable wing sets aside grant money primarily to promote K-12 literacy. The foundation has five grant programs that support adult and family literacy, strong libraries, and reading programs for schools.
The foundation’s Youth Literacy Grant is an especially valuable resource for school districts seeking help from organizations, such as Kids Read Now, that aim to boost reading proficiency for struggling readers. The Youth Literacy Grant provides funding for the following initiatives:
- Implementing new or expanding existing literacy programs
- Purchasing new technology or equipment to support literacy initiatives
- Purchasing books, materials or software for literacy programs
Grow Your Giving
Kids Read Now works together with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to bring grant opportunities to school districts. The mission is to provide matching grant money to enhance existing Title I funding.
This grant opportunity is for school districts that set up the Kids Read Now program for three years and track spring and fall reading scores, measuring the growth over time for program analysis. The grant then covers fifty percent of the first program year, and with additional funds for years two and three, the grant eventually covers one full year out of the three of the program.
Reading is considered the most important skill people acquire. It’s the foundation for further learning. From Kindergarten through third grade, children learn to read, and from grade four onward, they read to learn. If kids don’t master reading by third grade, they eventually run into some serious limitations and challenges in life. There are, however, ways to lay the groundwork for educating readers and make reading part of life-long learning.
Drill the Alphabet
Not fully understanding the letters of the alphabet and their relationship to sounds can deeply hinder reading proficiency. Students need clear instruction for how to identify, name, and write letters. They need to practice letter-sound relationships and review those relationships as they learn new ones. Activities like singing alphabet songs and viewing and reciting rhymes help them acquire alphabetic knowledge. Students have to be immersed in the world of the alphabet so that they can use letters in as many activities as possible.
Focus on Phonemic Awareness
Students need to be aware of the sounds of words and syllables in our alphabet-based language. The lack of this awareness trips up a majority of students who become non-proficient readers. To unlock the meaning in words, students need to know the sounds in those words and letters. Activities should focus on learning specific sounds, such as b in bump, and have students practice these sounds in as many words as possible. Students can then begin identifying and saying all the sounds in a word. From there, further strategies help students build on what they keep practicing and learning.
[bctt tweet=”From Kindergarten to 3rd grade, children learn to read. From grade four onward, they read to learn.”]
Boost Their Vocabulary
Gaining a large vocabulary is essential for unlocking meaning in written text. A limited vocabulary makes it difficult for readers to make all the connections among words, phrases, and sentences. Introducing and teaching new vocabulary in reading materials should be an ongoing strategy. Use word-learning strategies such as finding meaning from context, locating word parts to decode longer words, and searching the old standby: a print or online dictionary.
Read to Them
One of the best ways to teach something is to show it in action. Share stories and informational writing, and get students to think about the ideas and visualize what they hear. This is definitely something parents can do at home and teachers can do in classrooms. Reading to kids reinforces that reading is part of life, and it exposes kids to language and vocabulary that they might not experience in normal conversation.
Make Sure That They Read
Reading is a skill, and it takes practice to become proficient. Setting aside daily reading time at home or in the classroom is a good start. It’s important to have students read and reread stories and then gradually introduce them to more challenging texts. Use comprehension strategies that get them to ask and answer questions about the reading, visualize what’s happening, and make connections to what they’ve read. Also let students be responsible for choosing their own reading—they are likely to read more if they find something that interests them.
One of the best ways to teach something is to show it in action.
Let Them See You Read
This is especially important for parents. Children learn much by what they see happening around them. When they see adults reading regularly, they see that it’s what people should be doing. Modeling reading at home, or anywhere, increases the chances of a child becoming a proficient reader. After all, it may be difficult to sell the importance of reading if children don’t see others doing it, too.
Visit a Library, or a Bookstore
Show students the places in which they will see a vast amount of reading material and the nearly endless possibilities of what they can discover. Arrange a field trip so that students see what these places offer and how they can satisfy the reading interests of nearly everyone. Chances are, most libraries and bookstores have plenty of people browsing the aisles and inspecting books. This also shows students that people in general believe that reading is important.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
That simple proverb may seem wearied and overused, but at its heart, it holds some truth: People need balance in life, especially balance between their imaginations and their intellect. But work and play don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Play and learning can be combined. In fact, many experts, from educators to psychologists, believe play is learning. They’ve discovered that it develops a host of cognitive and emotional foundations essential for later life. Even Plato knew this more than 2,300 years ago:
“Our children from their earliest years must take part in all the more lawful forms of play, for if they are not surrounded with such an atmosphere they can never grow up to be well conducted and virtuous citizens.”
Current trends push kids to learn more and learn early, with approaches to teaching that are usually reserved for higher grade levels. The hopeful result is that the more one learns early on, the better. Some experts believe it doesn’t quite have the effect intended. They believe the push for absorbing a great deal of knowledge at a young age can have negative effects on development. They figure that students who just sit and consume information for the sake of gaining more information lack the opportunity for real-world engagement and critical thinking. Teacher-directed instruction and mass testing have pushed kids to be information consumers who learn facts, figures, and historical narratives with the basic goals of getting a good grade or passing a test.
Play is often viewed as that—just play, or recreational activities with no goal other than to have fun. Some people, however, insist it is much more. Those who encourage play, and play as learning, say kids need to be free to discover and imagine. Play involves exploration, experimentation, and cognitive engagement. All perform a role in academic success and success in career paths, and they’re important for leadership and innovative thinking. Education experts have developed a comprehensive list of how different forms of play lead to serious intellectual, physical, and emotional benefits. With a focus on activities such as games, puzzles, drawing, and writing, play helps students learn no matter where they are. Playing board games in particular encourages critical and strategic thinking and opens the door for teamwork experiences.
[bctt tweet=”Play involves exploration, experimentation, and cognitive engagement.”]
Play helps children engage the world around them, and engaging it is the first step to understanding it. Play-to-learn advocates promote play as an essential component of learning that goes hand-in-hand with traditional academic instruction. There’s even a formal gathering for like-minded people. The Cincinnati Museum Center hosts a Learning Through Play Conference for educators and parents. Separate events are curated for each group.
One of the strongest desires that parents of young children have is the ability to communicate with them. While they know a howling baby is uncomfortable in some way, they do not know why. Years are spent modeling speech to toddlers, saying words and pointing at objects to cement a visual link to the concept they are trying to teach. Toddlers, for their part, are incredibly amusing as they learn this skill. Every adult male becomes “Daddy”. Sometimes the family pet becomes “Daddy” as well. But they learn this skill through verbal demonstration and visual connection.
The writer is an explorer. Every step is an advance into a new land.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Teaching a child to read is a similar process. We sit a child on our lap, or lay them down at night, and read them a story. If they can see the words, their curiosity gets the better of them and they start asking questions. They learn to read in the same way they learn to speak; repeating what the adults say until they connect the word and the concept it conveys. The visual components to reading are letters and words. Teaching students at a young age to write improves their reading skills by helping them recognize the connection between the letters they see and the sounds the letter make.
Parents are instrumental in helping children link writing to reading and speaking at a young age. Like with speaking, they do not understand writing letters. They want to mimic what they are seeing on the page. This is how young learners start to write, known as emergent writing. Emergent writing is the way many younger students start writing. They start with scribbles, and over time hone those random slashes into letters. As they learn their letter forms, they are able to turn them into words. This adds another tool in their communication arsenal, linking the spoken and written word together. Adults help by encouraging this scribbling and guiding into letters. As young writers move from scribbling to writing poorly to writing well, they begin to move into other writing skills that are related to reading, like reading left to right and top to bottom. Understanding how punctuation affects what is read creeps into their writing.
Why start at such a young age? Early aptitude in writing is an indicator of a child’s reading ability. Up to middle school, children are sponges of information. They learn the things parents and teachers reinforce, like positive habits and important life skills. It is during this time frame that teaching them new skills are most effective. Helping them develop an aptitude for writing is a tool that will help them through their entire life, from taking notes in school to writing resumes and cover letters for jobs. It is important to keep them interested and enjoying writing while not forcing it. Pushed too hard, and they will get burnt out and frustrated. Writing becomes a chore, starting a bad relationship with writing and letters. This could start a bad relationship with reading as well, further hindering future prospects.
Teaching students at a young age to write improves their reading skills by helping them recognize the connection between the letters they see and the sounds the letter make.
Everything we can do as educators to build a strong relationship with the written word is important for a child’s future development. Giving students the tools to write the words they are reading is a major step to improving their literacy. Building their confidence in these abilities at a young age starts them on the path of being lifelong readers and learners. Kids Read Now knows the importance of building literacy at a young age. Reading to younger children supports their desire to learn to read and write, creating better students.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. ” -Frederick Douglass
Literacy is a strong component when it comes to predicting the success of students. The earlier we build that foundation, the better off the student will be in the long run. Studies show that the end of third grade and beginning of fourth grade is a crucial time in a scholastic career. Children who are not proficient at reading by this point are four times as likely to drop out of school than their better-read peers. That is only if students compared exist on the same income level. Add the challenges of being from a low-income home, and those same students are thirteen times more likely to drop out. Students that drop out are much less liable to be employed and far more liable to end up using government resources like low-income housing, food stamps, and possibly correctional facilities.
For those who are at the lowest income levels, the challenges in school can be the least of their concerns. Their attendance can be inconsistent because of family needs or transportation issues. They are often undernourished, causing them to be distracted when they need to focus on lessons. Students at the lowest income levels may not be able to afford even the basics like pens, paper, or shoes. And families of poor students may not be able to offer educational support like helping with homework or attending school activities. This can be due to their work schedule or a lack of education themselves. Their lack of education perpetuates a cycle that keeps these families on the low end of the social and economic scale. At this end, the drop towards criminal activities is not too far.
“For those who are at the lowest income levels, the challenges in school can be the least of their concerns.”
There are strong ties between incarceration and having a poor education. Those relationships start with students not having a high school diploma, or equivalent, having a much more difficult time finding a job. High school graduates are almost twice as likely to find a job than a student that has dropped out. People who cannot read at an 8th-grade level have a more difficult time reading newspapers (most written at a 9th-grade level) to find jobs or even applying for jobs. When the option for growth become limited, many dropouts will turn to crime. Studies estimate that up to two in three inmates read at the lowest levels or are functionally illiterate. Recidivism is much higher for those who have not improved their reading as opposed to those that have. Seventy percent of poor readers will end up back in jail, as opposed to sixteen percent that read well.
We have the opportunity to help break this cycle by focusing on literacy early. Kids Read Now provides tools to help students embrace becoming better readers by giving them the books they want to read in the critical kindergarten through third-grade years. Parents are encouraged to participate by helping them read the books, answer the questions, and obtain the next book for their child. Through the efforts of the entire community, we can build readers at a young age that will become learners and leaders in the future.
A few weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins finished the NHL season with a Stanley Cup victory. A week after that, the Cleveland Cavaliers finished the NBA season by breaking a fifty-two year championship drought in Cleveland. Both teams did it in spectacular style, taking their respective series seven games and winning in the closing minutes of the match. You may think that they are just going to relax until the middle of September when training camps for both leagues start.
You would be wrong.
“Then they are going to start preparing for next season.”
The players on each team are certainly going to take a break from their grueling, nine-month seasons. They are going to spend time with their families, head to vacation, sleep in a little, and catch up on the things they missed during the season. Then they are going to start preparing for next season. They are going to spend some time in the gym. They are going to watch games from the last season so they can get better. Then incorporate those needs into practices from the middle part of July to the time they walk into training camp.
Children in school are no different. School is nine months of homework, studying, learning, and testing. Teachers and students look forward to the end of the year for a few weeks of relaxation. The difference is that teachers start looking over lessons, taking some remedial classes, and preparing for school a few weeks into the summer. It is rare for students, especially young students, to do the same thing. There are far too many pools to play in, woods to explore, and television shows to watch even to consider getting children to do some reading. This leads to what many educators and people who study education refer to as the “summer slide”. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) has started celebrating Summer Learning Day on July 14th to bring attention to a gap than can affect any student but more pronounced in lower-income students.
“There are far too many pools to play in, woods to explore, and television shows to watch even to consider getting children to do some reading.”
Like athletes resting too much in the off season, students who do not participate in learning can fall behind. It is a critical developmental time for children; third graders that fall behind in reading are four times more likely to drop out. Students who do nothing during the summer can lose up to three months of educational gains. It may not sound like much, but by fifth grade, some students may be two to three grades behind their peers. That is quite a bit to overcome, and they may not have a LeBron to lift them up.
That is why the NSLA encourages everyone to spend time with their child on July 14th for education. The time can be utilized in a variety of ways. You can sit down and read a book together or play educational games. Even a walk in the park or a trip to the store can be an opportunity to learn. If students do not have the support system available to them, reading a good book on that day can help. Especially if it is a book that piques the child’s interest. Developing healthy habits now pay off over the course of a student’s career.
We encourage you to take part in National Summer Learning Day on July 14th. You can see what other communities are doing on social media be following the hashtag #KeepKidsLearning, and learn things you can prepare at http://www.summerlearning.org/. It is a perfect opportunity to sit down and read a book as part of your summer reading goals for Kids Read Now! When school starts in just over a month, you want you students to be in shape and ready to learn as if summer vacation did not exist. Players on the Penguins and the Cavaliers will be heading back to do some work in the next few weeks to get ready for the next season. Ensure the students in your school are spending some time enjoying their summer while reading and getting ready for school to begin!
Kids are constantly being told to read more, but what can we do to help them be more enthusiastic about it? We want kids to be able to pick up a book on their own and have it be enjoyable instead of feeling like a chore. These young learners need to have access to a wide variety of books; books that entice them and attract them to reading. Self-selected reading provides daily opportunities to practice new skills and understandings across tasks, texts, and environments. This creates an environment favorable to reading and making kids eager to participate.
“Self-selected reading provides daily opportunities to practice new skills and understandings across tasks, texts, and environments.”
Self-selected reading includes: teacher read aloud, mini-lessons, students choose and read independently, student-teacher conferences about reading and sharing. The books available, whether at home or in the classroom, are the tools to make self-selected reading happen. They should support varying interests, reading levels and formats. These can include printed books, e-books, and text-to-speech. Each of these categories can house multiple types of books.
Print books can include wordless books, picture books, graphic novels, tactile books, object books, comic books and pop-up books. Whatever form the book comes it should be accessible to the reader. That may mean easy to turn pages, pictures above the words or braille. Comic books can be created to document learning experiences and help students process them. This engages the students through thinking, creating and writing. Involving them in the book making process, enriching reading, writing and thinking. Online books or e-books offer another way to involve the reader. Pictures and sounds help create the story and immerse the kids. They can either read the book themselves or have it read to them.
“Kids Read Now, a self-selected reading program, provides the tools to create active and engaged readers.”
Self-selected reading also engages the students in reflecting on what they have read. It helps them make connections to themselves and actively ask questions to process what they are reading. This turns reading into a social activity as well as a solo endeavor. Kids Read Now! is dedicated to making reading accessible to as many students as possible and self-selected reading is one way to do that. These practices encourage students to pick up a book on their own outside of the classroom. It provides the skills necessary to actively process what has been read and learn from the material. During the summer months, kids can be hard pressed to pick up a book. Kids Read Now and other self-selected reading programs provide the tools to create active and engaged readers. The summer slide may become a thing of the past.
There has been a lot of debate lately about the importance of physical education in school curriculums. Many schools have cut PE funding or the programs have taken a back seat to “teaching the test”. The focus on raising standardized test scores has negatively affected other areas of education. Important ones. Such as Physical Education which is essential to a child’s development physically and mentally.
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children and adolescents. If you’ve watched professional football in the last 5 years you may have noticed a campaign called Play 60. This campaign encourages kids to get out and play for at least 60 minutes a day; using popular NFL players and kids of all ages. Besides the fact that this play or physical activity helps reduce obesity and obesity-related issues in students it helps them focus, learn and be attentive during stationary lessons. The more active, the better the academic performance.
“Exercise directly affects the development and cognitive ability of the brain.”
Studies from the CDC, Columbia University, the New York City Health Department and Department of Education and the Universities of West Virginia, Illinois and California have all published research that supports this need for physical education in school systems. Exercise directly affects the development and cognitive ability of the brain. It positively impacts a child’s ability to learn, retain and think at a higher level. According to Active Living Research, “In some cases, more time in physical education leads to improved grades and standardized test scores.”
Besides the improved grades and brain function physical activity cultivates it also helps with a sense of social connectedness and drop-out rates. At risk students are more likely to attend class when interscholastic sports are offered. Every student, regardless of financial situation, should have access to quality education and the tools to succeed outside of the classroom. Physical education can tie all of these issues together.
“Every student, regardless of financial situation, should have access to quality education and the tools to succeed outside of the classroom.”
During the summer months as we encourage our kids to go outside and play, swim and get dirty, we should encourage reading as well. They are exercising their bodies which helps their brain so why not support both. Kids Read Now! is like the Play 60 campaign. Both are working towards a common goal to help develop and positively influence children and adolescents. We want to give them every opportunity to succeed. Physical activity helps create eager-to-learn kids and Kids Read Now is providing the tools necessary for that success. Who knows, maybe they will begin to practice both on their own.