Delaware Eyes Improved Literacy Rates in Low-Income Areas - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Eyes Improved Literacy Rates in Low-Income Areas

Posted: 10/27/2017 18:06:00 -04:00 Updated:
Students at Fairview Elementary School in Dover participate in a reading exercise. Students at Fairview Elementary School in Dover participate in a reading exercise.

DOVER, Del. --- Delaware has launched a campaign with the aim of improving literacy rates across the state.

The state Department of Education and the United Way of Delaware launched the Delaware Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which aims to improve students' ability to read and write to grade-level standards before the end of the third grade. The campaign will attempt to bring state leaders, nonprofits, educators, and community groups together in an effort to address barriers many students face in education.

Only 37 percent of students in 17 low-income zip codes in Wilmington, Dover, and Western Sussex County are reading and writing at grade level before leaving the third grade, according to state education officials. That figure compares with a 52 percent rate across the state.

Lauren Cusick, a teacher and literacy instructor at Fairview Elementary School in Dover, said students who aren't exposed to reading or books when they are very young may have some disadvantages in the classroom.

"Some of them come to school not knowing how to write their name or colors, just knowing the basics, so we have to work hard with them just to teach them the basics before we can help them with their reading," she said.

Fairview is partnered with the United Way on the My Own Library program, which brings book drives to Fairview so students can take books home for reading outside the classroom. Principal Melissa White said that helps students have something to read at home, possibly with family members, that isn't found on a screen.

"I just think as a society, we've changed. Everything is so computer-based. It's the iPad, it's the computers, it's the video games they play," she said.

Delaware's education department said students in those 17 low-income zip codes do not typically have strong access to books, face physical, mental, or emotional barriers for learning, and often experience chronic absenteeism.

White said the intention of the overall DCGL program is important, because third grade learning is often a major transition for students.

'For Pre-K, Kindergarten, grades 1 and 2, we are teaching them to read and once they get past that point in third grade, they're reading to learn," she said.

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