New Literacy Initiative Helping Young Students

NEWARK – A new literacy initiative is increasing reading proficiency among the county’s kindergarten students.

During a Worcester County Board of Education meeting Tuesday, educators highlighted the success of the “100 Book Challenge,” a program implemented at the kindergarten level during the 2018-2018 school year.

“We are very excited about this program,” said Coordinator of Instruction Dee Shorts.

According to Shorts, the school system’s early literacy committee reviewed a handful of reading programs and selected the 100 Book Challenge as the best option for Worcester County. She said the county needed to implement a program because there was no common language in place among educators to describe reading levels. Knowledge of teaching reading, something she said was the most important skill a student needed, also varied among teachers.

“Everything hinges on a student being able to read and it is truly the hardest thing to teach,” Shorts said.

Through the 100 Book Challenge, students were given the opportunity to select four to six books of their own choice each morning.  They were able to read those books during independent reading time in class each day.

“Being able to choose a book is so important,” said Georgia Wierengo, a literacy coach.

She said that while it took time, students gradually became more interested in reading. Independent reading time of five or 10 minutes was gradually increased to 20 minutes.

“Kids are excited and motivated to read,” Shorts said.

The program, which includes an online data dashboard, enabled teachers to gauge students’ reading growth during the course of the school year.

“We know our kids better than we ever have,” Shorts said.

Thanks to the 100 Book Challenge, nearly 90 percent of kindergarten students were deemed ready for first grade as the school year ended this month. When the school year started, just 22 percent of kindergarteners were ready for first grade.

“If kids aren’t ready to move to first grade that’s when those gaps start,” she said.

Shorts said the 100 Book Challenge had enhanced educators’ access to reading data, provided teacher coaching and generated reading excitement among students.

“We really feel this is a great program,” she said.

Because of its success at the kindergarten level, the 100 Book Challenge will be extended to first grade and second grade next year.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.