Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reading in Your School -- How Important Is It?

I have to admit it. After spending 37 years teaching school, providing leadership as a principal, training teachers, and helping schools find the grant money they need, I’ve developed a few hot buttons. I don’t just care about these issues. I am passionate about them.

I firmly believe every child should be taught to read well, that students should be taught to give back to their school and community, that every program worth having should be assessed annually for its effectiveness, and that every principal should be well-trained and provide effective leadership – or find another job.

When I started teaching in 1973, I was 20 years old. I taught social studies in a middle school. Correction. I tried to teach social studies in middle school. The average reading level of our students was two grades below the national average. The textbook I was given to use was approximately one year above an 8th-grade level. That left a 3-year gap between my students' reading abilities and the level of the text.

In 1974, I began teaching Title I reading. I still believe reading is the most important skill we teach and that reading instruction and practice should continue throughout middle and high school. So much reading is involved in science, social studies, math, geography, health, psychology, and almost every other subject we choose to teach, reading should be a prominent subject in every school.

Granting agencies must agree with me. More grant money is available to schools to improve reading programs than any other single category. That's right. More grant money is available to help you to improve your students' reading skills than anything else. Not only is the dollar amount more, but there are more grants available from more sources for reading than any other category.

Reading money is needed in kindergarten and first grade to make sure every child gets a solid foundation in reading. Grant money needs to be spent in most schools to provide programs that will keep all students at an appropriate reading level as they progress from primary school all the way through high school.

As we get into this new school year, ask yourself this question: "Should our school be applying for grant money to improve the reading levels of the students in our school?” The Discount School Supply free grant database lists hundreds of reading grants for both public and private schools. Take advantage of that free resource. Find the grant money you need to make your reading programs absolutely the best you can make them.

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