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corey blaz 398375 unsplashWe all know that childhood literacy is important, but, beyond simply learning to read, a continuing lifelong appreciation for, and love of, reading is tied to success in other areas. According to research, one of the best predictors of future education achievement and life success is reading engagement. An Edinburgh University study found that early reading skills are a key factor in determining whether or not an individual will have a high-paying job, better housing and greater professional opportunities.

When a student enters middle school, there is an increased demand for reading in order to learn academic content, but there is a general decline in reading interest. Recognizing this fact, the two-year SCASD Academic Literacy program capitalizes on an important time in students’ lives, to encourage and promote reading as an academic skill and enjoyable hobby. Starting in seventh grade, the program spans a variety of texts and genres.

Led by nine Park Forest and Mount Nittany Middle School teachers from a variety of subjects, each course within the program includes a thorough exploration of self-selected and assigned reading. Creating a well-rounded reading experience for each student, courses also include whole group and small group fiction and non-fiction texts. The aim is to teach students how to read effectively and increase comprehension by interacting with the text. Students are encouraged to develop critical thinking and the ability to self-assess reading skills and comprehension, skills that will benefit students in college and beyond.

The eighth-grade course builds upon the fundamentals of the previous year and continues to expand upon a student’s ability to think critically and analyze and evaluate texts. These skills are designed to teach a student to develop their own personal claims regarding a text, and then communicate those claims effectively.

While many districts offer academic literacy courses for students who struggle with reading, the Academic Literacy program at SCASD is unique because it’s designed for all students. Students of all reading levels can benefit.

Because of the Academic Literacy program, the amount of time students spend building skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening, has doubled. As a result, students are showing a greater stamina for reading accompanied by a better attitude toward reading. This new found appreciation for reading comes strategically during a time when reading interest is statistically shown to drop among students, making the Academic Literacy courses especially valuable. The evidence has already shown an increase in student reading levels, an exciting outcome.

Thanks to the program, SCASD students will leave seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms better equipped for future learning in any subject.