ANDERSON — Literacy is the beating heart of education.
Success in English, mathematics, social studies and the ability to think critically all flow from the ability of students to read well and comprehend what they’ve read, many education experts say.
The implementation of programs that help students at Indiana Christian Academy become more facile, confident readers makes Kevin Plew, administrator at Indiana Christian, swell with pride.
The school’s academic year will end today following a morning awards ceremony.
Plew credits the work of three staff members with helping advance student literacy skills this year: teachers Heather Lingle (third grade) and Elizabeth Plumb (fourth grade) and school librarian Carol Parker.
Lingle and Plumb focused on reading skills with their students. Parker expanded the school library by 35-40 percent with the acquisition of about 2,000 books through special sales at Anderson Public Library, where she volunteers.
An emphasis on reading skills will continue next year, Plew added, with the addition of a computer-based program called Accelerated Reader from Renaissance Learning.
Plew said Parker “knows what books to get and was able to get them at a deep discount because she volunteers at the library. It’s been a huge benefit to our kids.”
Plumb agrees that an expanded selection of books has been a “huge success with the students.”
However, strategies to succeed at reading, as well as incentives for reading books, has helped ramp up enthusiasm, she added.
Timed reading comprehension quizzes Plumb implemented probably weren’t greeted with joy by students. She admits that initial scores were low.
Eventually, comprehension scores increased while the time allowed to read material and answer questions decreased.
Lingle said her students read each day and focus a lot of attention on phonics “to become more fluent readers.”
They also read out loud, have “reading buddies” and are strongly encouraged to read at home for an hour or more each week.
Fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Eric Barnes said all of his students received highly visible hot-pink bookmarks to encourage summer reading.
“We encourage students to weave reading into their summer activities and also work on math facts,” Barnes said. “We’re trying to avoid the summer slip so we’re ready to go when we come back in August.”
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