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Paving The Way For Our Future Readers

"The more you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."- Dr. Seuss

Simple yet powerful: Every time you open a new book the chance to go on another magical journey appears. The destination may be different, but the opportunity is still there. The opportunity to learn something new. A small amount of reading every day can create a spark in a child; and that spark can lead to a wonderful, bright future. I grew up loving to read anything and everything I could get my hands on, and I looked forward to the summer reading program at the library each year. When I got into a good book it was hard for me to put it down. And now that I work in a school library, it's opened my eyes again to how important reading is and how fun it can be.

Reading is an essential part of everyday life and career advancement. It's not something that should be taken for granted, but rather cherished. However, upon taking a closer look at some statistics from the Charleston County School District, the percentage of rising 9th graders reading at a 4th grade or below in 2014 was 12.7%. That's down from 20.9% in 2007, but that number is still staggering. It can be a challenge for classroom teachers because they have to teach to a variety of students on different levels all in one classroom. You don't want to teach too far ahead to confuse some students, but you also want to nurture students who are exceeding the expectations you have set.

Melissa Welch, one of our district's literacy coaches works with students on a more personal level to enhance their skills and put them on the path to a better reading level. She explains that most students enjoy reading to themselves or with a partner. However, little victories like that can be overshadowed with what's expected from them by the school district and their literacy standards. "When student's literacy work is celebrated, they are more apt to work harder to improve their skills,” Welch says. She also notes that when a student is aware of their literacy progress and given the proper resources and exposure, they can soar to new heights and surprise us all. Sometimes all a students needs is a little kick to get them going. In the Charleston County School District, there are close to 49,564 students. These students should have every opportunity to grow and learn. Sounds easier said than done, but there are ways to lessen the literacy gap and continue to send our students into a bright future.

There are 3 components to improve reading skills; Parents, Teachers, and Students. With parents, it's important to read at home. It could be 10 minutes or it could be 45 minutes. Melissa Welch believes that, "without exposure students will never know what is out there. Parents need to encourage reading by building a child's library, taking frequent trips to the library, exposing them to literacy events around the community, and committing to read with their children on a regular basis.” With teachers, Welch says that, "literacy will not improve without arming our teachers with the current ways of teaching. Without providing intensive intervention to our students we may never close the literacy gap in our population.” When mapping out lesson plans, it's important to be able to recognize the various levels of literacy in your classroom, and pick books that will both challenge and help students understand the fundamentals of reading.

Lastly, it's all about the students. Becky Bentley, a librarian in the Charleston County School District, believes that, "the big thing is to love reading. With school and testing, teachers can pick books, but it's important to let kids have a choice sometimes in what they read.” At her school, she notices that teachers will read a particular book in their classroom, then all the students will come to the library wanting to read other books from that series or author.

Reading will always be an important factor in all of our lives. Living in Charleston, we are fortunate to be around such a rich environment of culture, arts, and opportunity. However, we must not forget to arm our students with the necessary tools to prepare them for the future. Theatre gives us the ability to bring some of our favorite stories to life like Of Mice and Men which begins January 14, 2016. Along with Blue Bicycle Books and the Charleston County School District, Threshold Rep would like to give back this year to inspire middle and high school students to read. We want to give them the tools to create new worlds, fall in love with new characters, and root for the hero as they learn and grow. Threshold Rep and Blue Bicycle Books invites you to donate a book appropriate for ages 11-17 at Blue Bicycle Books, Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 7:30pm, Sundays form 1:00pm - 6:00pm and at Threshold Repertory Theatre, Thursday - Saturday 6:00pm - 8:00pm, Sundays 1:00pm - 3:00pm. Donate a book and receive a $5 off coupon for Of Mice and Men and a 10% discount for any book at Blue Bicycle Books. Help give the joy of reading!

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