By Billy Cox
Studies indicate that, by age 3, children from low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than their middle-class counterparts. By fifth grade, due largely to a two-month summer absence from school, these youngsters have typically fallen behind those peers by anywhere from 2.5 to 3 years. In response, the Sarasota County school district sponsors Summer Learning Academies at Title 1 elementary schools Tuttle, Emma Booker, Gocio and Alta Vista. The county also partners with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to promote summer reading programs for first-graders at the R.L. Taylor Community Center. It also hosts summer reading clinics at all five Boys and Girls Clubs.
Sarasota County is the only district in the state to offer these daily, half-hour, one-on-one reading sessions for underperforming first-graders. That’s because several local philanthropies have helped finance instructor training and material. A mixture of phonics, visual elements and tactile alphabet props, Reading Recovery nudges 72 percent of its students up to grade-level reading nationally. This is the first year the program will be offered in every public elementary school.
Direct Instruction (SRA)
Based on scripted lessons that teach reading skills in group settings, SRA is a core-curricula supplement not available in most schools. It relies on learning words through rhythm, cadence and pacing. It can also turn instruction into something of a performance art, and isn’t for all teachers. However, it is largely responsible for turning around at least one Title 1 school’s Department of Education grade from a C to an A within a single year, and faculty who want to teach it swear by the results.
Based on years of brain-science research, a nifty app sponsored by the Bezos Family Foundation offers ideas for busy families who may find themselves pressed for reading time. Launched in 2014, Vroom offers more than 1,000 easy tips for parents to enhance communication skills at every age of development from 0-to-5. Vroom now counts 150,000 users in more than 100 countries.