Celebrate If You Can Read This

Celebrate If You Can Read This
Roni Rucker Waters
March 05, 2015
Boy reading with Build Up character

My love of the written word developed early. I was so smitten that I set up a small classroom and library in our home when I was 9 and taught my youngest brother to read before he entered kindergarten.

Reading exposes children and adults alike to more information, possibilities and adventure than any ordinary day could offer. If youngsters master reading by the time they finish third grade – typically at 8 or 9 years old – they can spend the rest of their school years reading to learn. Data show that students who haven’t mastered reading by the time they enter fourth grade are more likely to struggle in school and drop out before high school graduation.

The most recent Nation’s Report Card, created from 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test data, shows that the reading scores of fourth-graders in Michigan’s public schools are lower than those of fourth-grade students in 30 other states. More than one-third of Michigan fourth-graders (36 percent) scored below the “basic” achievement level. (Thirty-three percent were at basic, 24 percent were proficient and 6 percent were advanced.)

So it makes sense that more time and money are being spent on reading in Michigan and that preschoolers are being included.

State Superintendent Michael Flanagan announced a Culture of Reading program at the Michigan Department of Education in 2013 to promote early childhood learning and development. Gov. Rick Snyder’s latest state budget proposal includes $48.6 million in state and federal funds to help Michigan students reach the third-grade reading benchmark.

Güd Marketing is proud to be working with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to raise awareness of two programs that are also helping children meet kindergarten readiness and school achievement goals.

One is Build Up Michigan, the state’s way of letting families know that free special education services are available for preschoolers through their local school systems even though they are not yet school age. These services give 3- to 5-year-olds an opportunity to “catch up” so that they don’t need special education services once they get to school.

Routine preschooler activities – building vocabulary, matching shapes, recognizing letters, establishing motor skills, rhyming words and gaining interest in books – develop prereading skills. If parents, pediatricians or other caregivers notice that a child is not showing interest in these activities, they can get information on what to do at buildupmi.org.

Our other MDE project is working with the Office of Great Start Child Care and Development Program to raise awareness of financial assistance available to help pay for child care. The Office of Great Start established a rating system – Great Start to Quality – for child care facilities and home care givers so that parents have a way of comparing quality when choosing child care providers. GSTQ rates five areas: staff qualifications and professional development; family and community partnerships; administration and management; physical environment; and curriculum and instruction.

Child care providers with higher GSTQ ratings are reimbursed at a higher rate per hour by the state on behalf of qualified parents.

“Nothing ensures school readiness as well as high-quality child care and preschool,” Superintendent Flanagan said when announcing the GSTQ rating system. “Numerous studies show students who attended high-quality child care and preschool have higher third-grade reading scores and long-term student achievement.”

March is National Reading Month. In celebration, I think I’ll call my brother and take a little credit for his academic success. Then I’ll read with my two granddaughters on FaceTime. Reading is a joy that should be shared.