It is with great pleasure that I am writing to you about the Lead to Read Program. I am a First Grade Teacher at Garfield Elementary School in the Kansas City Public Schools. This was my first, of what I hope will be many, years of participation in the Lead to Read Program.
At Garfield we serve a large English Language Learner population. It is common for us to have between 20 and 23 different languages represented at our school every year. It is imperative that we provide meaningful literacy experiences to help all of our students grow as readers and writers, and to build vocabulary and oral communication skills. I believe the Lead to Read program gave the ELL students an extra needed boost in all of these areas.
Seeing the growth my students made with their reading and literacy skills this year was so exciting, and I have to attribute much of that growth to the time spent each week with our “Reading Buddies, as they were affectionately called in our classroom. It is every teacher’s dream to spend thirty minutes of one-on-one time with every student each week, but never a feasible reality. Thirty minutes of time with an adult that was “just for you” meant the world to each of my students. “Reading Buddy Wednesdays” were a highlight of every week!
I would like to bullet point some of the ways this program helped my students succeed this year:
- Seventy-five percent of my students’ sight word recognition bank increased dramatically this year. Over sixty percent of my students mastered all taught sight words (160 sight words).
- Science test scores increased over past years. I believe reading Informational Texts about specific science topics with our readers served as a way to better practice and remember Science content.
- We give a standardized Reading Test three times a year called the NWEA Common Core Test for Primary Reading. Of the fifteen students who have completed the test as of today, thirteen students met their Spring Growth Goal Projection score! This large percentage of growth is thrilling, and I did not have such a high percentage of students meet their growth goals last year.
In closing, I would like to share a story about Jose and Gabe. Jose is a very quiet and shy student in my room. In the Fall, I would watch Gabe try to engage Jose in conversation week after week as they read together, only to see Jose quietly smile and nod his head now and then. And the months rolled by, and they kept reading together. A couple of weeks ago Jose was absent and I had the chance to ask Gabe how things were going with them. He smiled and said, “It’s going GREAT! At first he would barely talk to me and now he makes jokes with me all the time and always has books ready that he wants to read to me. He talks with me so much now and his and he is reading so well!” Gabe gave Jose confidence and a special kind of relationship that I don’t think Jose would have ever felt fully comfortable having with me, his “maestra”. So beyond all of the data and scores– THAT is what Lead to Read is giving to children all across Kansas City. I can only hope that one day all students in our city will be able to have a Gabe in their lives!
First Grade Teacher