Friday, March 7, 2014

Reading is fundamental

"Reading is fundamental." If you're were around in the 1980s, you will recall that catch phrase in a series of television commercials by RIF, the oldest and largest nonprofit literacy organization in the United States. What was true then is still true today...reading is fundamental. The new Common Core State Standards recognize that fact by infusing literacy standards beyond language arts and into social studies, science, and technical education. Reading is not only fundamental: it is now everybody's business.

Reading is serious business in the Newton Public Schools. For many years now, Merriam Avenue School has used the Columbia Readers' and Writers' Workshop as a model for English language arts (ELA) instruction, while Halsted Middle School has used a balanced literacy approach.  Both schools have implemented small group instruction and targeted programs such as Scholastic's Read 180 to assist struggling readers. Newton High School continues to build upon its course offerings by creating a college credited English course for next year through the Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA) to go with its current AP English offering. The high school will also introduce World Mythology as the first in a line of semester ELA classes.

In celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday, Read Across America has become a highlight of school calendars across the nation. In Newton, we celebrate our Love of Reading Week with enriching literacy based activities organized by librarians Carolyn McKnight, Erin Marmara, and Wendy Whipple such as:
  • High school seniors went to Merriam, Halsted, Florence Burd, Long Pond and Green Hills schools to read to the younger students. These activities promote reading and scholarship, as well as provide our seniors a valuable community service opportunity. In addition, their former teachers get an opportunity to re-connect and receive affirmation of their hard work.  
  • DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) took place each day at Merriam along with morning announcements intended to motivate all students to become avid readers. Numerous guest readers came to the school to share their favorite books with the students. Students wore themed clothing each day of the week to celebrate the great work of Dr. Seuss.
  • Volunteers from Kohls visited Merriam so they could spend some time reading to our students. The children enjoyed having guest readers in their classroom and all adults served as role models for our students.
  • The Merriam PTO sponsored the Spring Book Fair with a Family Fun Night. The theme for the evening was "fiesta," and the children enjoyed dancing to Spanish songs, eating Spanish foods and shopping for some wonderful books. Senora Smith assisted the parents in making some fantastic selections.
  • Halsted teachers were invited to stop by the library to enjoy bagels and coffee, and to preview our many new books. Students will visit the library with classes to see the new books and hear some book talks. On another day, students and staff wore something others could read.
  • Halsted students and staff participated in a short video project showcasing their favorite books. The video clips will be edited and put together by the Techno Stars, our technology enrichment group. The completed project will be displayed on our website.
  • On Friday, Halsted students participated in an assembly with the Cat in the Hat (Mr. Grzymko) reading "The Big Brag" by Dr. Seuss. Students had the opportunity to answer trivia questions and win prizes.
  • Two high school students were chosen as Enthusiastic Readers for Sussex County by the Northwest Jersey Reading Council. Leah Cotton, grade 9 and Sharone Brown, grade 10, will be special guests at the Young Authors Conference at Frankford Twp. School on March 15. They will be treated to lunch at the Chatterbox with author/illustrator David Lubar. 
  • Each school also recognizes its "Enthusiastic Readers," students who demonstrate extraordinary commitment to and love of reading. The Board of Education will honor one Enthusiastic Reader at each grade level at its regular meeting on March 25th.
Reading is not only an everyday activity in our schools, it's as normal as breathing. We celebrate our teachers and students who commit so much of their time, energy, and abilities to building great reading skills.

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