PowerPoint presentations can be simply a rather boring list of facts and figures, but Lynda Henney took it in another direction at Wednesday’s Vernon School District board meeting.
The district’s literacy co-ordinator presented a video of a young girl, Raine, using reading strategies to enjoy a book, clearly filled with joy at her accomplishment. It was hard not to be moved by the youngster with the big grin.
Henney explained that Raine is just one of many elementary students in the district using strategies in the Changing Results for Young Readers program, a provincial initiative begun last year.
“Raine loves reading and sees herself as a reader,” she said. “We have the program at eight schools, with 29 teachers, and the goal is to improve the number of B.C. children who are engaged, successful readers, who experience the joy of reading.”
The goals of the program are to provide opportunities for educators to collaborate and apply effective literacy strategies; to continue to build a teaching culture focused on improving reading results for all children; and to use current literacy research to foster reading success.
Since the fall of 2012, the initiative has involved 9,000 B.C. students in kindergarten to Grade 3, 600 educators, 66 early reading learning teams in 59 school districts and 420 in-depth case studies focused on many of B.C.’s most vulnerable readers.
“When the program began, 68 per cent of students were considered to be meeting the requirements of reading at their level. By the spring of this year, 85 per cent are now reading at grade level.
“Each teacher comes to it with their own questions around reading and each will also identify one child whose reading they are concerned about, where they will do a case study of one student.”
Henney said the work of Richard Allington has been particularly inspiring to her. The author and researcher has been studying children’s reading for many years and has learned that children who read books that are easy for them show greater improvements in reading than children who read books that are hard for them.
Henney outlined Allington’s six elements of effective reading instruction: every child should read something he or she chooses; every child reads accurately; every child reads something that he or she understands; every child writes about something that is personally meaningful; give the child time to talk with their peers about reading and writing; have every child listen to a fluent adult read aloud.
“That is so important as it’s when we show what it sounds and looks like. We’ve been trying to offer more choice to kids, and every child should be reading with 98 per cent accuracy,” she said.
“We found when we worked with kids with books they like, they are more willing to read for longer and their confidence goes up.”
Henney said what’s needed also are great resources for kids, not simply photocopied sheets stapled together, but fabulous books that will engage the child.
“We took a common approach but are flexible to each student’s needs. A team approach is key with this program, and the teachers I’m working with are amazing and so dedicated.
“I think the love these kids have for reading is testament to this district.”