Lt. governor gathers ideas for literacy by 3rd grade

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia reads “Llama Llama Red Pajama” to first-grade students at Rim Rock Elementary School on Tuesday morning.The lieutenant governor visited Rim Rock as part of his early childhood literacy tour. Garcia is touring 15 Colorado schools to gather input.

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia visited Rim Rock Elementary School Tuesday morning to glean ideas for a potential state early-childhood literacy policy.

Garcia is touring Colorado this week with members of Literacy Matters Colorado, a group of business people, philanthropists and nonprofit leaders interested in getting all Colorado children to read at grade level by third-grade. A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation released in April found U.S. third-graders who did not read at grade level were four times more likely than their peers to drop out of high school.

“This isn’t a third-grade problem,” Garcia told community leaders and District 51 employees Tuesday in Rim Rock’s cafeteria. “We need to look at everything that happens between birth and third-grade. We need to engage kids much earlier.”

Brandee Calton, who leads District 51’s Reading Recovery program for first-graders, suggested full implementation of that program could help increase the chances of statewide literacy. Reading Recovery teachers offer literacy lessons one-on-one with first-grade students who are not proficient in reading.

Last year, 33 Reading Recovery teachers taught 244 students in 16 local schools, Calton said. Those students grew 12.4 test points in reading exams and 63 percent were reading well enough to leave the program after 20 weeks.

This year, Calton said the district has 16 Reading Recovery teachers working with about 100 students in six schools. The program is unable to take all first-graders who are not proficient in reading and was not able to do that at every school last year.

“If we had Reading Recovery fully implemented throughout the district, that would make a significant difference,” Calton said.

Fruita City Council member Stacey Mascarenas suggested finding a way to assure parents there is nothing wrong with seeking help to deal with a child’s literacy struggles.

Mascarenas, who serves as chair of How Are the Children, said that community initiative has had success encouraging parents to ask for help with various issues by calling 2-1-1 for guidance.

Trimming the wait list for preschool, keeping school libraries open and getting volunteers and businesses to encourage literacy were among other suggestions the lieutenant governor and Literacy Matters Colorado received at Rim Rock.

Literacy Matters member Barbara Grogan, founder of Denver-based Western Industrial Contractors Inc., said suggestions gathered this week in 11 communities (and in four more Nov. 7) will help Garcia and the group she is part of achieve their literacy goals.

“Is there a policy to be developed? We may need that, we may not,” Grogan said. “At minimum we need to deploy resources in the most efficient way.”


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