Anniston schools promote reading as part of national movement
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
Mar 02, 2013 | 4649 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marlon Jones, the director of federal programs for the Anniston City Schools, reads Dr. Seuss’ ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’ as part of Read Across America Friday at Randolph Park Elementary School. (Anniston Star photo by Paige Rentz)
Marlon Jones, the director of federal programs for the Anniston City Schools, reads Dr. Seuss’ ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’ as part of Read Across America Friday at Randolph Park Elementary School. (Anniston Star photo by Paige Rentz)
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Striped stovepipe hats sat on nearly every head that entered the doors of Randolph Park Elementary School Friday as students listened carefully to community leaders reading classic children’s books.

As part of the national Read Across America initiative, more than 25 visitors from all walks of life — including city and state officials, nurses, retired educators, police officers, and business people — picked up favorites such as “Hop on Pop” or “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birth anniversary, which is today. The famed children’s author lived from 1904-1991.

“It was cool because all different kinds of people came,” said fifth-grader Hamila Cochran, who dressed as the Cat-in-the-Hat to greet visitors and escort them to classrooms.

“We tried to pull someone from every aspect of community involvement,” said Principal Teresia Hall. That way, she said, students can see that reading is important for a wide array of organizations and professions.

First-grader Bryan Martinez said he enjoyed having visitors come into his classroom and read Dr. Seuss, his favorite author. Friday’s reading time with visitors was especially fun, he said, because of all the rhyming words he heard.

Hall said Friday’s event is an extension of what students do every day in the classroom.

She has implemented a “Walk to Read” program in which students in each grade are grouped based on whether they meet benchmark skill levels or need strategic or intensive help to meet that standard. Students then leave their home classrooms to work with teachers who gear their instruction to the needs of each group. On Friday, she said, guests walked into the classrooms during the special uninterrupted reading time.

Data for the school’s youngest students shows that Walk to Read is working. Between August and December, kindergarten and first-grade students have moved from needing intensive help to strategic work and meeting benchmark standards, when tested on early literacy skills. Hall said students in older grades saw similar improvement based on an assessment called ThinkLink.

Reading has also been a target at Anniston High School, where students this week wrapped up the month of February by successfully completing a 100-book challenge, meant to coincide with Read Across America. After students read their books, said librarian Becky Brown, they completed summaries they then posted on a challenge wall, where they can pique the interests of other students.

Brown said the high school held a similar event last February called Reading Romance, in which participating students were entered into a raffle for two movie tickets and a box of Valentine chocolates. She said about twice as many students participated this year.

Friday’s event at Randolph Park was an opportunity to inspire students.

After reading Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” state Rep. Barbara Boyd discussed with students places they might like to visit, including the Eiffel Tower. Before long, Boyd, a French major and 45-year educator, had a classroom of engaged students counting and singing songs in French.

“There is so much talent among young people today and so many learning styles, it’s a challenge for today’s educator,” she said. “But to bring out the best in today’s students and all the places they’ll end up going, depends on how you motivate them at an early age.”

Mayor Vaughn Stewart read “The Little Engine that Could.” Students had many reactions to the books, telling the mayor that the story teaches children such messages as “have confidence” and “don’t give up.”

Stewart told the students that as they get older, they might encounter people who tell them they can’t go to college or become doctors or engineers.

“A lot of people will say that,” he told them, “but you’ve got to, right here in your heart, know that you can.”

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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