TAHOE/TRUCKEE - Local leaders and educators of all stripes will be donning their Cat-in-the-Hat hats this week and reading to young children to celebrate Dr. Seuss' birthday in the days surrounding March 2.
A Birthday Party for Dr. Seuss will take place at Truckee Elementary School on Friday, March 1, from 5-7 p.m. The Family Fun Night Dr. Seuss birthday celebration is a community event put on by the Truckee Family Resource Center. Other community and classroom events are planned as well. These activities are fun and beneficial, however our commitment to early literacy must run deeper than a once a year celebration.
Across the country, two-thirds of students aren't reading proficiently by the end of third grade, a critical milestone that affects how they fare in school and whether they eventually graduate. In our local school district, 47 percent of TTUSD students are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. Within that, 74 percent of our low-income children are not proficient readers by this time.
This is why leaders in Tahoe/Truckee have made a remarkable commitment and come together behind a single goal: Increase the number of third graders reading at grade level.
Third grade marks the point when children transition from learning to read to reading to learn. We know that when children do not master reading by that point, they get left behind as the curriculum speeds forward with more complex assignments
Many eventually drop out of high school and fail to find success in the job market. Improving early reading can help us close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, support our local economy and build a strong community.
Accomplishing this takes the whole community. Everyone can help. You can tutor a struggling reader, provide prizes for students who improve their school attendance, volunteer in a summer learning program or simply reach out to families in your neighborhood who need an extra hand.
You can also join our local "Tahoe Truckee Reads" coalition to help with the important work we're planning. Our next community meeting to focus on summer learning efforts is scheduled for Thursday, March 21. The Tahoe Truckee Reads steering committee has been meeting monthly for the past year and is working hard, with community support, to implement the nationally recognized literacy plan that was created.
Our Tahoe Truckee Reads team in partnership with our elementary schools and PTOs executed two successful community book drives redistributing thousands of books to our local youth. Our partners are reaching out to families with infants, toddlers and preschoolers to ensure they are talking and reading to their children regularly, enhancing their love of reading and language development.
We're enlisting health care providers to spread the early literacy message to parents. Our school district is launching Kinder Camp this summer to help smooth the transition of new students into kindergarten and to give them an early start in developing academic and social skills for success in school.
When children begin school, our teachers and administrators work with parents to ensure students attend regularly so they are engaged with the curriculum and are learning along with their peers.
The effect of missing even a few weeks of school in the early grades can resonate throughout a student's academic career. When teachers need to catch children up who have been absent, this can affect the learning of the other children.
For the summer, we're partnering with teachers and local summer programs through libraries, Parks and Recreation, Family Resource Centers and Boys and Girls Club to build capacity and support what students have learned the previous school year. We are working to prevent summer learning loss also referred to as "summer slide" and make sure students start the new year ready to move forward.
Central to this early literacy push are schools and teachers, who deliver the instruction and curriculum needed to instill a love of reading. But the schools can't do this alone. Tahoe Truckee Reads is a local partnership between Excellence in Education Foundation, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee, First 5, Nevada and Placer Counties and Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
This is a community wide issue and we need to work together as a community to find solutions to the barriers that children and families face that keep children from learning to read proficiently. Please join us on Thursday, March 21, from 4-5:30 p.m. at the TTUSD board room for our next community meeting.
We're one of 124 communities nationwide that has formed a local coalition and is working with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to tackle these problems. We need everyone involved, not just parents and school, so that we can celebrate reading success every day of the year.
- Laura Abbey Brown is executive director of the Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education Foundation. Learn more at www.exined.org.