• The Beacon Today

Local school program fights trend of illiteracy


Everyone remembers learning the alphabet and tracing the letters on dotted lines in kindergarten. Most probably remember the students who needed a little extra time to master this basic skill. Every classroom is different, but teachers are finding that many classrooms lack the resources to help all children learn at the same pace.


Some children need additional time and effort from teachers to keep up with the same level as everyone else.  The National Institute for Literacy estimates that 43 percent of adults with very low literacy skills live in poverty.About 70 percent of adult welfare recipients have lower level literacy skill on the National Assessment of the Adult Literacy.


Melinda Springman, principal of South Olive Elementary School, explained there is more to this than children’s inability to learn.

“The issues with families in poverty is that we have an increase of families whose parents work multiple jobs and are not able to have enough time to work with their children as much as they would like to,” Springman said. “What we are finding is that for the last two years, we have an approximate of 40 percent of children who arrive to kindergarten with zero pre-K learning...These children start kindergarten with at least a year or maybe even two years behind of what they should be academically compared to their peers.”


Most would think that low-income districts would get more funding towards their public schools, but that is not always the case. Local funding largely depends on the property taxes that the district earns.


A large district with a large population of non-poor students will raise more in property taxes, and therefore receive more school funding.


Springman explained how funding could benefit her school district greatly and help level the playing the field for her students.


“We are a non-Title 1 school. This means we do not get funding for additional teachers, literacy coaches, additional material for kids,which are things that title one schools are able to purchase,” Springman said. “When I got here, it became clear very quickly that we had classrooms that needed additional remediation but there was only one teacher in the room.”


Springman, along with a few other teachers, started Reading with Tigers, a program that recruits local university volunteers to help tutor the children of South Olive Elementary School on basic reading and writing skills.


This program has helped her students immensely to be integrated in the classrooms with the appropriate curriculum.  Springman hopes more schools will start similar programs to help solve the growing problem of illiteracy.


By Isabella Pinel

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