August 25, 2010


Programs, educators encourage literacy

Library, school summer reading programs aim to develop strong reading habits in children

LiteracyJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Vignes Venkataraman, 7, of Cortland reads to his mother, Kanchan, in July at the Cortland Free Library’s “Make a splash, Read!” summer reading program.

Staff Reporter

Every week during the summer, Andrew Corson and his 7-year-old daughter Brittani have gone to the Cortland Free Library.
Corson said he began taking his daughter to the library regularly when he noticed she was having some difficulty reading.
He hopes that her reading level will have improved before she starts the new school year at Parker Elementary School.
Corson said he reads Stephen King novels and hopes his appreciation of books is shared by his daughter.
Fostering good reading habits starts with parents such as Corson and extends to schools and local literacy organizations, educators say.
“We think it’s extremely important to read to children. Children listen long before they can talk,” said Katrina Morse, assistant director of the Ithaca-based Family Reading Partnership. “They especially like the together time, the emotional bonding with the parent.”
The nonprofit reading partnership, which has a Cortland office, is a community reading coalition that promotes the familiarity of books and literacy to children before they enter school, Morse said.
At the library, Corson and his daughter browsed the books on the shelves.
He said he likes reading to her because it is fulfilling.
“(While reading) we were in our own little world, being father and child. It’s the best feeling ever,” Corson said.
As children age, it becomes harder to keep them reading, especially for their own enjoyment, according to a 2007 study by the National Endowments for the Arts that tracked reading trends among youth.
The study, “To Read or Not to Read,” contends that achievement in reading dipped precariously low as students got older, and showed that few people enjoyed voluntarily reading — reading when not required by work, school or commitments such as clubs or organizations.
In 2004, about 54 percent of 9-year-olds voluntarily read, compared to 53 percent in 1984. In that same period the percentage of 17-year-olds who read for leisure dropped from 31 to 22 percent.
“Although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress appears to halt as children enter their teenage years,” Dana Gioia, chairman for National Endowment for the Arts, wrote in the study.
The study also points out that college attendance does not guarantee active reading habits. In fact, the study suggests that consistent reading steadily declines as a person gets older.
The factors the study alludes to include things associated with older age, such as responsibility to career and family.
According to the study, proficient readers are 2.5 times as likely as basic readers to be earning $850 or more a week. For adults, “proficient” corresponds with a prose literacy score of 340 or greater out of 500.
Larry Spring, superintendent of schools for the Cortland Enlarged City School District, said he has noticed certain trends in reading habits within the district.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to think the wealthier the family, the greater the opportunity and expectation for reading in that household,” Spring said.
He said the district to connects students to existing literacy resources, such as The Bright Red Bookshelf, a book donation program for the public which is sponsored by the Family Reading Partnership.
Morse said the philosophy of the Family Reading Partnership is to entice children with books, so that they can forever be readers.
“Once you start with loving books, you’ll end up wanting to read,” Morse said.
The Homer Central School District hosted a summer reading camp for students in its district.
The students, ages 6-11, were recommended by their teachers before school was out, and are working with a certified teacher in small groups to strengthen reading skills.
“The ability to read and understand what we read enriches and deepens the way we interact with the world immeasurably,” said Linda Llewellyn, Homer’s director of instruction and evaluation.
Reading adds quality to our social and working lives, it opens doors and closes gaps. When students cannot read, they are less independent, less confident, more likely to opt out of opportunities, and they lack one of the greatest tools one can have.” Libraries in the area host programs and activities for children. At the Phillips Free Library in Homer, Lamont Memorial Library in McGraw and the Cortland Free Library, there are programs for children, teens and adults.
Beejal Dave, took her two daughters to the Cortland library the same day as Corson. As Dave read quietly to her 1-year-old daughter, her 8-year-old daughter sat through a reading program about water hosted by the library.
“I think when you introduce them (children) to books, you help them grow,” Dave said. While her youngest daughter, Krishna, cannot read, Dave said she likes to look at pictures and illustrations in books.
Corson said he has seen an improvement in his daughter since he started taking her to library. He said she is eager to read, and has even started writing her own short stories.
He said he lets her pick out the books she wants.
That day in the library, Brittani checked out a Berenstein Bears book and an I Spy Book. She said she likes reading, and would one day like to be a writer.
Brittani said as she gets older, she will continue to read and will encourage other children to read as well.
“(Everyone should read) because you can learn about things,” Brittani said.


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