Montgomery County’s 16 public school superintendents united in a common cause Tuesday of improving students’ reading test scores. Together, they launched the county-wide Read On campaign.
An estimated 500 Montgomery County third graders may not advance to fourth grade, if they don’t read proficiently by the end of the school year due to Ohio’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
“My colleagues and I pledge to do everything in our power to see that every kid is a good reader by the third grade,” James J. Schoenlein, superintendent of Kettering City Schools said. “We won’t be able to do it alone. We’ll need parents, grandparents, families and communities to help out.”
About 300 people attended the launch of the Read On campaign at the Dayton Art Institute, an initiative of ReadySetSoar and Learn to Earn Dayton.
Senator Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said a lot of people question Ohio’s reading mandate.
“What I hear most often is, how can you do that to a third grader. Do you realize what you’re doing to their self esteem to hold them back in third grade?” Lehner said. “Has anyone thought about what we’re doing to someone’s self esteem if we let them go through life not learning how to read?”
Successful former Dayton-area students challenged the community to become part of the Read On effort.
Norris Cole II, a graduate of Dayton’s Dunbar High School and the point guard for the 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat, will be appearing in a public awareness campaign to educate families about how they can help their children be “Super Readers.”
“I tell students all the time, your mind will take you further than your body,” Cole said. “I have to read playbooks. I have to be able to read graphs. I have to be able to read charts. I also have to be able to articulate those things and apply them on the court.”
Charles Wilkes graduated from the Dayton Early College Academy in 2009 at age 16 and was a winner of the Gates Millennium Scholarship. The recent Morehouse College graduate is now bound for a doctoral program in mathematics education at the University of Michigan.
“Montgomery County, it’s up to us to make sure these kids read and that they are able to do what they are supposed to do, that unique, distinct something,” Wilkes said.
Phil Parker, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, released the Read On toolkit, a 34-page booklet with information on the importance of reading, the impact of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee and, ways to get involved with the movement, such as organizing book drives. The toolkit also includes resources for parents.
The toolkit is available at ReadOnDaytonRegion.org.
Amanda Christiansen, a third grader at Beverly Gardens Elementary School in the Mad River Local School District, said she doesn’t understand Ohio’s reading guarantee, but at age eight she has already discovered the magic of reading.
“Reading opens up the secrets of the universe,” Amanda said. “I learn new things from reading and sometimes it carries my imagination away.”
Read On is part of a grassroots movement to grow the number of high-value jobs in Montgomery County by ensuring that all young people in the region leave high school prepared to succeed in college or are career-ready.
Currently about 36 percent of Montgomery County residents between the ages of 25 and 64 have a two- or four-year degree. Labor economists project that by 2025, almost two-thirds of all jobs will require a post-high school degree or certificate.