As we move forward and continue to strive for excellence in education for our children, the Morgan County School Board recently approved a new mission statement and beliefs to help guide our efforts. The new mission statement reads as follows: The Morgan County School District Community stands united in the pursuit of educational excellence. It is our mission to create a challenging learning environment that emphasizes literacy and numeracy. We seek to assist students as they prepare for responsible citizenship, meaningful work, advanced education, and life-long learning. In order for us to have fulfilled these educational goals, our students must exit our schools having acquired a thorough understanding and mastery of numeracy and literacy and the ability to apply them.
I would suggest that teaching literacy is of the utmost importance because it is the cornerstone for all other learning that takes place throughout an individual’s lifetime. I would also suggest that it requires a partnership of all interested stakeholders working together to help young people become literate individuals. Interested stakeholders would include teachers, administrators, parents and students. Working together would mean that all stakeholders, kindergarten through twelfth grade, both at school and at home, would fulfill their responsibility in producing literate individuals who exit our high school upon graduation.
It is the responsibility of teachers in the elementary grades to plan an appropriate curriculum that will teach the “Five Pillars of Reading Instruction” that includes Phonemic Awareness, Phonics Instruction, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension”. The focus on literacy in the elementary grades is to teach students the required skills needed to read and to start them on the journey of using these reading skills throughout a lifetime. When students enter the secondary grades, grades sixth through twelfth, they experience a literacy shift in focus from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. Teachers at the secondary level should reinforce reading skills learned in the early grades and plan a variety of effective lessons to help students access their particular content curriculums. Secondary students use and refine the reading skills they learned in the elementary grades to access new material and expand their knowledge in various subjects. Those students with less than adequate reading skills struggle in trying to acquire this new knowledge. As the instructional leaders of their schools, it is the principal’s responsibility to insure that quality instruction is being delivered to all students in each grade level throughout their k-12 experience. The responsibility for teaching literacy does not rest solely on the shoulders of teachers and administrators, but must be shared equally by parent and students as well.
With regards to literacy parents are a critical factor in helping their children get started in the right direction for reading success. A few small things can make a very large difference. Taking time to read books to toddlers and very young children can be powerful. Through this shared experience children begin to learn some of the most basic skills required for reading. They see positive reading role models and they begin to understand that reading is something to be practiced and valued. Setting aside regular times to read together can pay big dividends. Making a variety of books available to children at an early age and throughout their school years is also important. This can be accomplished by purchasing books or by visiting local libraries. Parents can set the stage for their children to either be successful in their educational experiences or to fall short of that goal.
Students themselves, play a critical part in their own acquisition of reading skills. They need to come to school ready to learn and motivated to give their best effort on a daily basis. They need to be attentive to their own learning and be willing to put in the level of work required to be successful. If all stakeholders do their part, together we can accomplish the task of preparing literate individuals who can be successful members of our society.