Opinion: ‘Read with Me’ program making strides in Incline | SierraSun.com

Opinion: ‘Read with Me’ program making strides in Incline

Incline Elementary School expanded upon our partnership with the Read with Me program in the 2016-2017 school year with a goal of improving our reading outcomes school-wide, as well as improving literacy outcomes among our struggling readers.

In 2016-2017, the Read with Me program provided support for our school-wide Million Word Challenge and also provided leveled books for all students to take home. For struggling readers, the Read with Me program provided volunteers for one-to-one reading intervention during the school day and an after-school Reading Club intervention for first-, second-, and third-grade students.

In addition, Read with Me provided our school with a reading coordinator, who managed our Million Word Challenge, our Read with Me volunteers, and our after school Reading Clubs. Having Lisa Richards in the role of reading coordinator was invaluable to the success of our school-wide reading efforts. The results of our partnership with Read with Me have been overwhelmingly positive for our students.

Our Million Word Challenge is a school-wide initiative to encourage students to read. Throughout the school year, students selected Lexile-appropriate books to read independently and took comprehension tests upon completion. Once the students passed their comprehension tests, their word counts were calculated and posted in the hallway and were updated regularly.

With our reading coordinator keeping us on track, we had 100 percent of our students participate in the Million Word Challenge with a total word count of 52,095,525 words read! We also had 13 students read between 1 million and 3.2 million words.

Read with Me provided a grant to assist Incline Elementary School in acquiring the early literacy program — Footsteps2Brilliance (F2B). F2B provides students in pre-kindergarten through third grade with an app that teaches early reading skills in a fun, "gamified" environment. Students love interacting with the F2B, which can be downloaded on any device: smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.

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Students use their devices and the F2B program even when they are not connected to the internet. Their reading progress data uploads for teachers once the student reconnects with the internet, so students can use the program when traveling, or over the summer to help limit the academic losses usually experienced when students are not in school.

The Footsteps2Brilliance program is used by school districts across California with very positive results, particularly for families who speak Spanish in the home as the entire F2B program can switch from English to Spanish with the touch of one button, allowing students to develop biliteracy skills. We anticipate positive results from our students' interaction with F2B over the coming months.

Yet another powerful aspect of our partnership, the Read with Me program provided Incline Elementary with 37 community volunteers, who worked over 1,000 hours with our struggling readers one-on-one both during the school day and in our after school Reading Clubs for first through third grades. Read with Me funded three certified teachers to coordinate after-school Reading Club, which offered intensive reading support to some of our most struggling readers.

While it is difficult to isolate the impact of all of these initiatives on our student reading outcomes, the trends are extremely positive. One shining example is that 4.7 percent more of our kindergarten students demonstrated reading proficiency on the Developmental Reading Assessment when compared with Winter 2016 to Winter 2017.

In addition, our 2017 Spring DRA achievement data shows significant jumps from 2016 to 2017 in reading proficiency among our kindergarten, first-, and second-grade students.

Read With Me funded our after-school Reading Club where teachers identified 25 students who struggled with reading to receive intensive intervention. By looking at our Reading Club students in terms of expected growth, we once again can see positive benefits. In 2016, Incline ES did not offer Reading Club, so we see a much higher percentage of our cohort of 25 struggling readers making growth targets in 2017 once the Reading Club program was introduced.

The overall percentage of these 25 students meeting growth targets in 2016 was 32 percent without Reading Club; in 2017, with Reading Club in place, 64 percent of these struggling readers met growth targets!

The Incline Elementary School partnership with Read with Me, and Roberta and Clay Klein, along with the Read with Me donors, have had a tremendous positive impact on our students, and we look forward to future collaboration and having our volunteers return this year.

Daniel S. Zimmerman is Principal of Incline Elementary School