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Everyday Literacy — Helping children brush up on reading skills before school starts
Aug. 14, 2014 @ 10:50 AM

For Liberty Drive Elementary Literacy Instructional Coach April Willard reading isn’t just a fundamental skill, it’s the only skill. And she’s devoted her entire career to it.

This self-proclaimed bookworm, former teacher and administrator turned reading advocate spends her time coaching and helping school staff understand the common core standards, as well as providing extra help to students who struggle with reading.

“In my opinion, by the time a child finishes kindergarten they should know how to read. They should know the alphabet, how letters form basic words and what those words mean,” she explained. “Reading is incredibly important because it impacts every aspect of our daily lives and our ability to function in society. That’s why we utilize every resource we have available at our school to ensure each child has a solid reading foundation before they move on to the middle school.”

Spelling it Out

Experts estimate that nearly 40 percent of fourth graders in America do not achieve basic levels of reading proficiency.

According to Willard, many young students coming from homes facing financial challenges tend to lack the parental support they need to help further develop their ability to read and write leaving teachers to close the gap.

“These days, especially here in Thomasville, a lot of parents are working second and third shift to make ends meet and simply don't have time to work on these skills with their kids,” said WIllard. “I have seen kindergarteners and first-graders not know how to hold a book or pencil, much less recognize their name written out. It’s heartbreaking and makes the child frustrated and discouraged.”

But Willard is full of hope and passion for the young students of Liberty Drive. She holds tight to the belief that students who become solid readers perform better in school, have a better sense of self-esteem and are more likely to become life-long learners. 

“Liberty Drive has some of the most incredible, compassionate and capable teachers in the nation,” Willard said. “I don’t believe there is a child out there who doesn’t like to read. We simply have to find what they like to read about. And that doesn’t mean every child likes to read books. They read poems, a magazine or articles online — as long as they are reading — that’s all that matters.”  

This year, Willard is thrilled to announce that each student at Liberty Drive will receive their own subscription to Highlights magazine as well as Time for Kids. The publications are geared towards children and their interests and contain age-appropriate jokes, puzzles, stories, poems and educational content that helps build vocabulary and background knowledge.

“Our students love these magazines. They are incredible learning tools for both teachers and parents,” said Willard. “Not only will students be able to use them in the classroom but they can take them home and read to their parents. And plus, it makes students feel special to have something of their own.”

Story Time

WIth the countdown to school on, Willard encourages parents to help students who’ve slacked off over the summer on their reading and writing skills get back in the swing of things with a few simple ideas.

“Lack of routine and staying up late can wreak havoc on a child’s attention span,” said Willard. “It helps to combine earlier bedtimes with reading a book or writing in a journal for 30 to 45 minutes before they go to sleep. This means no video games, no TV, no cell phones.”

Willard also suggests parents share unique, everyday reading opportunities with their child through fun activities and games played out loud such as reading store signs, menus, food labels, street signs, ads, maps and catalogs.

“Simply talking with your child and engaging in conversation about current events or news can also help broaden their vocabulary and expand their knowledge of their world,” she said. “Asking them their opinion can spark ideas and encourage them to think out of the box and apply what they know. If parents get excited about learning and reading, their child will be too.”