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More than Just Books

March is National Reading Month. The month kicks off with National Read Across America Day on March 2 calling upon all of us to read and engage with children to make reading a more fun and interactive experience.

Rainier Scholars' 5th Grade Academic Enrichment Program Literary course

At Red String, we believe that literacy and the love of reading is essential for developing a life long love for learning. Definitionally, literacy is the ability to read, write, spell, listen, and speak, and for the past four years, the Foundation has provided a grant to fund the purchase of all required books for our partner charity, Rainier Scholars, Academic Enrichment Program 5th grade literary course.

But, with the exponential growth in technology, from the internet and social media to information access and artificial intelligence, some may ask, "Why buy books?"

There is no denying that technology has significantly impacted how we consume and interact with written content. While some argue that technology is detracting from the reading experience, others believe that it makes reading more accessible.

Recent research suggests that they are both right, with the delimiter being age and stage of development of the reader.

Once children have learned to decode words, research on how they comprehend texts encountered on screens and paper gets a little more decisive. Experts say that young readers need to be reading alongside adults — getting feedback, asking questions, and discussing key themes together. All this helps them build the vocabulary and knowledge to comprehend what they’re reading. Screens often do a poor job of replicating this human-to-human interaction.

A study by the Reboot Foundation found that fourth graders who used tablets in nearly all their classes scored 14 points lower (nearly a full grade level) on a reading test than students who never used them.

Rainier Scholars' Curriculum Developer and Inquiry English teacher, Drego Little, suggests that students self-report learning more and have a better reading experience when they read paper books. Little states that for many of his students, his class is the first time they've read a whole book.  "I think someone could be a reader if they found the right book to get them started.", says Little. "But I think what is more important is that there has to be a culture of reading around that person that says that it is something to do."

"I develop curriculum in terms of conceptual units that are around specific objectives.", says Little. "The way I do it is I develop literature units around sort of moral philosophy questions. As an example, every spring I teach a unit with a guiding question, how do people fight with integrity? That's the question."

Rainier Scholars' Drego Little engaging with his students

The students are then given books to read such as Ellen Levine's Freedom's Children, a nonfiction with interviews of people who were kids during the civil rights movement. They read the Pearl by John Steinbeck. They read Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men. And, they read a kid's version of the Iliad. "While they work on each book, as they read, they annotate the book and marking the parts that they think answer their claims or support their claims in relation to the big question.", Little explains. "Then, as a class, we first try to come to a full understanding of the book. [The students] write discussion questions that support the big question, then we spend a lot of time discussing the big question in seminar, so everyone understands it."

Little states that in a lot of places, especially in under-served communities, books don't hold much of a status for kids. "I think kids need to own some books." says Little. "[kids] need to talk about books like they talk about the Super Bowl."

We couldn't agree more.

You can help. Celebrate National Reading Month and join us in purchasing books for the incoming 2024 Academic Enrichment Program's 5th grade scholars' Literary course. Contribute to our Books for Good crowdfunding campaign! 100 percent of all proceeds will go towards a grant to purchase the required books.

Join Us and Contribute Today

(to be continued)

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