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New Approaches To Reading Could Increase Mississippi’s Literacy Rate

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Feb 2011 10:07am | comments

Mississippi has the lowest literacy rate in the nation...roughly 20-percent of Mississippi adults cannot read. An early start for Mississippi kids can help improve the literacy rate. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on new ways of learning to read that are more than just the ABC's.

At the Little Samaritan Montessori Daycare in Jackson, a group of rambunctious 3-4-and-5 years olds works on learning the sounds of English.

Tamara Smith, a teacher at the day care, says they aren't worried if a child misspells a word. They focus on building a verbal connection to the language instead of memorizing letters.

"We don't concentrate on saying ABC's. We concentrate on the sound. Because the sound is what forms the word. So we concentrate on the sound of the words so that they can put sounds together and form an actual word," Smith said.

Early childhood education specialist Dr. Ray Reutzel spoke at a recent education conference in Jackson. Reutzel says new research is changing how some educators approach reading...moving the focus to expanding vocabulary.

"You can't read if you don't have oral language. And that is what I have been working with, building children's rich oral language. A big vocabulary. The more vocabulary they have, the better off they are going to be later on when they learn how to read," Reutzel said.

Reutzel says that children are able to learn more words and how to read at much younger ages than previously thought.

Education companies seem to be catching onto newer ways of teaching reading as well.

Kay Herring with Scholastic says the education materials they sell are increasingly focused on expanding a child's vocabulary.

"Get them used to hearing words that they don't usually at home. Get them to where they can model, see a model of those words within a picture or hold it in their hands so that it is concrete," Herring said.

Back at the Jackson daycare, the kids aren't worried about the research behind what they are doing, they are happy to be learning.

Mississippi does not have a state sponsored pre-K program, but a pilot study of the potential impact of pre-k is currently underway.

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