Education officials in Massachusetts are stressing the importance of early childhood literacy when it comes to closing the achievement gap. A pioneering reading proficiency program in Springfield has been nationally recognized. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville , this week, launched a tour of selected schools to highlight summer reading programs. He’s to appear in Boston, Worcester, Sharon and Lowell over the next two weeks to stress the importance of reaching the goal of every child in Massachusetts being proficient readers by the time they leave 3rd grade.
Massachusetts has received a $50 million grant from the Obama administration to implement education reform initiatives aimed at closing educational achievement gaps before they begin to develop. Although students in Massachusetts as a whole are among the best in the country in academic achievement, children from poor and minority communities generally lag behind. Education officials believe the turn around starts with improved reading skills.
Third grade reading proficiency is key to future success in school, according to Ralph Smith who directs a national campaign on grade level reading for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Massachusetts education officials are establishing practices to build children’s early literacy skills from pre-school through 3rd grade as part of a statewide strategy to improve achievement outcomes.
Ann Morello, who teaches a first grade reading intervention program in the Springfield Public Schools says most children enter school behind where they should be in reading skills.
Early childhood education advocates in Springfield launched an initiative three years ago aimed at making dramatic improvements in children’s early literacy skills. The project director, Sally Fuller of the Davis Foundation says current reading proficiency is under 40 percent for Springfield 3rd graders
Springfield’s reading proficiency initiative is backed by a coalition of educators, child development specialists, local businesses, philanthropists and government officials. It’s programs include campaigns to encourage parents to spend 20 minutes a day reading to their young children. There are book give-a-ways and summer reading programs.
The community initiative resulted in Springfield receiving a 2012 “ All-America City” award from the National Civic League.