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August 26, 2009 > Raising a Reader

Raising a Reader

By Simon Wong

Kathy Lincoln, Director of Childhood Development Services Program, Milpitas Unified School District, and Linda Lambert, Coordinator of the Raising a Reader Program presented a progress report to Council on August 18.

The program has been in effect in Milpitas for several years and enjoyed Council's support. During that time it has grown substantially.

The program's mission is to foster healthy brain development, engender parent-child bonding and nurture early literacy skills essential for school success by engaging parents in daily "book cuddling" with their children from birth to age five.

"Research shows a direct correlation between a child's academic performance and the number of books in the home and how well-trained parents are in literacy," stated Lincoln. "Children, who haven't participated in the Raising a Reader Program, come to us with a "readiness gap" that we must close. The program is a powerful preparatory tool for school."

The program was originally envisioned as a literacy scheme for youngsters not participating in a pre-school readership program. It soon became apparent that training parents was critical. Providing them with books and the materials to coach literacy enables this. This is important for children in pre-school and not at pre-school.

There have been 66 Raising-a-Reader families in the past year. Their learning is facilitated with age-appropriate vocabulary, familiarity with language structures, listening skills, reading and comprehension skills and greater attention spans.

This intake will be the first to be tracked between kindergarten and third grade with refinement of the program over time.

"This year, 37 children will enter kindergarten better-prepared than before. That's six percent of our kindergarten-intake. We'd like to increase that to 10 percent next year and look forward to continued growth," said Lincoln.

"The program has grown. In the 2007-08 academic year, we had 11-13 families. In the 2008-09 school year, there were 60-66 families and more wish to enroll. We shall maintain the program at Rose and Randall Elementary Schools, where there are more than 26 families, and at Rose and Sunnyhills pre-schools which have 40-45 families. Weller Elementary will join this year. We shall roll out the program to the other Title I schools next academic year," stated Lambert.

Originally, program funding may have been limited but the tremendous growth has created new opportunities. Raising a Reader has been brought into the pre-school program and is now part of the parent-education budget. Hitherto, this was not so.

The School District's partnership with Milpitas Library to enhance resources for the program has afforded opportunities to apply for grants. Target has awarded $1,500 and the program will submit applications to Walmart and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Funding from the latter is earmarked for the 2010-11 school year.

"Our goal is to extend to all Title I elementary schools, have more parents on board and support children entering kindergarten. The City's support over the past four years has made a difference to six percent of the kindergarten-intake. Thank you," concluded Lincoln.

For more information, email llambert@musd.org

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