Each month, Dr. Zorn reaches out to our business community via the Kelso Longview Chamber of Commerce newsletter with information about the successes and challenges of our public schools.
On my office wall hangs the pledge I wrote in 2008 to continually remind myself of what I believe should be the primary focus of the public educator–LITERACY. This pledge reads, “I will devote time each day to improving the literacy skills of our students.” I wrote this when I was serving as an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, a role which required daily discussion and focus upon improving the literacy skills of each of our students.
Today, in my role as the superintendent of schools, I strive to maintain this daily commitment to improving our students’ literacy levels. I am convinced that there is no more important thing we do in our schools than to teach our kids to read and write effectively. These skills transcend all subjects and are essential to success in all vocations.
We are working hard in all Longview Public Schools to improve our student’s literacy skills. As I visit classrooms I often ask students, “What are you reading?” I am pleased that, most often, students readily answer that question. More and more, I see our students engaged in writing opportunities which help improve their ability to think logically, argue effectively, and share creatively. Students are also now reading and writing for many different purposes and about many diverse topics. Science teachers are teaching our students to read and write like scientists. In our social studies classrooms, students are learning to read and write like historians, while Career and Technical Education teachers are preparing their students to read and write in ways that will help assure their workforce success.
As we seek to improve the literacy of our students, I have come to realize that one of our greatest challenges is to get more age-appropriate literature in the homes of our children–particularly our homes which might be impacted by poverty. Here are some sobering research findings:
- The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement found that “61% of America’s low-income children are growing up in homes without books.”
- Researcher Jeff McQuillan found, “The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home.”
- In their book entitled Meaningful Differences, Hart and Risley (1995) reported that 3- year-olds from affluent families had larger spoken vocabularies than the parents of families on welfare. Spoken vocabulary is a key in early reading readiness and success.
Each of these pieces of research speaks directly to the importance of our children, from the moment they are born, being immersed in literacy-rich environments in which they are read to, talked to, and given opportunities to explore the language associated with their world. I am incredibly grateful for the many organizations in our community that recognize this and are committed to getting age-appropriate literature in the hands of our children. As superintendent, I look forward to partnering with these organizations and with each of you as we expand upon these essential efforts to improve the literacy skills of our students.