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Educators in Mississippi are Motivating Children to Read with the Help of Dr. Seuss

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 02 Mar 2011 01:06pm | comments

Studies show that only 22% of Mississippi 4th graders are reading at grade level or above. In response, the State Department of Education has set a goal to have all 3rd graders reading at grade level by 2012. MPB's Lawayne Childrey examines how one Jackson school is meeting the challenge and what it could mean for the future of our state.

At George Elementary School, clusters of 3rd graders sit in the halls listening to dozens of volunteers read some of Dr. Seuss' most beloved tales. While exercises like this get children into the habit of reading, Rhoda Yoder, Director of Language Arts with the Jackson Public Schools, says the process of reading really begins as early as kindergarten. That's when she says children are learning how to distinguish what they hear from millions of different sounds.

"At that point they are really in the decoding stage. But at some point we hope that these decoding skills become rather automatic so that the child no longer has to focus in on each letter but becomes fluent and as a successful adult reader does takes in groups of words.

Even though George is in one of Jackson's most under privileged neighborhoods it has managed to consistently remain on the list of star status schools. Carla Thomas, the schools literacy coach credits that in part to the schools comprehensive reading program that relies heavily on parental input.

"We may ask mom while he's watching T.V., ask him to tell you the purpose of that commercial, ask him to tell you why the cartoon character did a certain thing, to help strengthen with our program at the school. Because you can call words and not understand anything that you've read."

Studies show that one in five Mississippi adults cannot read. Blake Wilson, Director of the Mississippi Economic Council says those statistics pose problems for the state’s economic future.

"One of the things we hear consistently from employers is if you can help me hire an employee who can read, write, do basic math and communicate with others we can train them to work in manufacturing in Mississippi. And so reading is what it all starts with."

Studies show that students who don't continue reading during the summer break can lose up to 3 months of academic achievement. Lawayne Childrey MPB News. 




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