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Idaho is at all time high in reading levels for early ages

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI)- Dr. Seuss Day is nationally recongised as the 2nd of March. Which of course was Saturday. The goal of the day is to encourage more reading especially at an early age.

On Feburary 26th, I went to South Fork Elementary School in Rexburg to learn more about how the school's creative ideas to get their students reading. You can read the full story here. I have also met with State education leaders to learn more about what they are trying to do to get more kids reading.

The gem state is actually one of a handful of states that tracks literacy in elementary students. Which, means Idaho Educators can accurately measure the success of their reading programs.

The Chief Deputy Superintendent in the state's education department syas the numbers currently are at an all time high.

"Not only have we bounced back from COVID, we're now at levels higher than we were pre-pandemic. And so we have evidence to show that our Idaho students are reading, well, K-3, and we are either at or exceeding national averages statewide,"  Ryan Cantrell The Chief Deputy Superintendent in the state's education department said.

Cantrell said that there two ways educators plan on keeping the reading levels up and improving the results. One is using the science of reading.

"The science of reading is not in a curriculum. What it is is it's 20 years of research to ask the question what works in teaching reading? And we literally have two decades worth of research to show what works in education. And so making sure that we're relying on what we call that body of evidence, that body of knowledge, the science of reading is imperative," Cantrell said.

The other is also relatively simple, a community of support for our teachers.

"The second piece are what are called professional learning communities, and that's when your teachers get together and they ask the question, What do we want our students to know and be able to do? How do we know if they're doing it? How are we going to respond if they're not doing it? And then what are we going to do for the students who have mastered it? And by getting together and looking at student data regularly and asking the question, what do we as adults need to do differently to ensure that students are learning is a key to continued success," Cantrell said.

For the last 5 or 6 years teh states education department and legislators have been trying to find ways to get young students nose deep in a book.

"One of the best things we can do for our young readers is ensure that they can read fluently in order to start finding topics that they love reading about, and then they can fall in love with reading. And so ironically, one of the things we have to do is ensure that they're fluent readers or they read with ease to fall into love with reading. And then the second piece is help them explore topics, find topics that they really enjoy that might not come naturally to them. And libraries are a great place for students to find some of those topics that are unique and that they haven't seen before," Cantrell said.

Part of how they are doing that is trying to expand how school libraries can encourage students to read at home.

"School libraries are a unique thing, not just because they offer the physical copies of the book. A lot of school districts are moving into digital libraries as well, so that whether a student has an iPad or a Chromebook, they're able to read a lot of these books digitally," Cantrell said.

One local fourth grade teacher at South Fork Elementary School in Rexburg Courtney Priestley shared how this has impacted one of your students.

"I actually I have a student in my class and he is the funniest kid. He hated reading at the beginning of the school year. But through trial and error, we found different books that he enjoys. He's loving the Percy Jackson books, which are some of my personal favorites. And so it's fun to be able to talk and engage with him in those stories, and he just can't put them down. So it's always important to get time, to get to know your kids and find books, he'd enjoy. Because not every kid is going to enjoy every book," Priestley said.

Cantrell says Idaho is leading the nation in the way educators teach reading. He also encourages parents to model reading at home to encourage their children to read more.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8.


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