Education research indicates third grade reading proficiency is critical to a student’s educational progress. One national study determined that 1 in 6 third graders who could not read proficiently did not graduate from high school on time at a rate four times higher than proficient readers.
If students lack a solid reading foundation, they can begin to fall behind in many subjects and find it difficult to recover.
Woodstock School District 200 educators used that premise last year to identify first graders who weren’t reading at grade level and design a plan to address those students’ needs.
During the first full week of the 2019-20 school year, the district implemented the “Everyone Reads” program. Through the program, second graders who were not reading at grade level during first grade were invited for an additional hour of after-school reading instruction to strengthen their skills.
District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan said administrators began developing “Everyone Reads” last fall, and he said he is optimistic that improved reading skills will be the outcome.
“Once you teach students to read, you can teach them anything,” Moan said. “As educators, we need to do everything we possibly can to make sure that groundwork has been laid so that every student can learn and reach his or her potential.”
“Everyone Reads,” which has about 160 second graders, runs four days a week at all six of District 200’s elementary schools. The teachers have received specific reading intervention training. Buses are provided for students who use district transportation. Before the after-school program begins, children are given a snack and movement breaks.
Administrators restructured work days for interventionists who teach the class and used additional evidence-based funding provided by the Illinois State Board of Education to operate “Everyone Reads.”
Keely Krueger, District 200 assistant superintendent for early childhood and elementary education, said candidates for the program were identified last year by multiple measures, including a combination of teacher referrals and testing results.
Parent meetings were held in the spring to explain the research and to present the district’s proposed solutions through “Everyone Reads.”
“We’ve really had a positive response from parents to the program. Parents want their children to succeed in school as much as we do,” she said.
Moan said although socioeconomic factors can affect a child’s educational development when they enter school, he’s not interested in excuses as to why students cannot make progress.
“When we say ‘Everyone Reads,’ we mean everyone. Every child deserves a chance for success, and reading will open that door for anyone who wants it,” he said. “The opportunities become endless.”
In the past few years, Krueger said the district has tried some after-school reading programs on a smaller scale with fewer hours that proved to be successful.
“Obviously, with more time, we’re expecting even better results,” she said.