Play. Talk. Sing. Read. The Oregon Education Investment Board, Umpqua Bank and schools around Oregon are inspiring young children to read by using those four tools. The program is called “StORytime” with the intentionally OR in the middle for Oregon. “It’s designed to empower parents with every day, everywhere activities,” said Kirsten Gimbel, communications director of the OEIB.
Those activities include things like going to the grocery store, walking and talking together, cooking dinner or driving in a car. Those are times parents can speak with their children to build vocabulary, or ask them to read single words.
“Activities parents and families are already doing in the course of juggling busy days and schedules,” Gimbel said.
StORytime’s goal is to make sure students are reading at grade level by third grade.
“Studies show a child’s ability to read by third grade is one of the single greatest predictors of lifelong success,” said Nicole Stein, VP of community responsibility with Umpqua Bank. “If a child is reading on grade level by the end of third grade they are four times more likely to graduate from high school. That helps us underscore our goal of making sure that every child has the opportunity to be successful.”
StORytime chose five communities in Oregon to launch the program: east Multnomah county, south coast, Malheur County, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Klamath Tribes.
“When we were selecting communities to engage we wanted communities that represent children and families that make up Oregon,” Gimbel said, noting it needed to highlight Oregon’s cultures, regions and languages. “This is about collective commitment community by community to support students and families.”
The Klamath Tribes community program will kick off at an event Oct. 29 at Chiloquin Elementary.
“The idea is to focus locally and get parents and community members involved,” said Travis Fast, Chiloquin Elementary principal. “Chiloquin being unique with the Klamath Tribes, it just made sense to start with us.”
“It’s designed with helping parents and families overcome many of the real and perceived barriers they face with literacy building,” Gimbel said.
Some of those are phantom barriers, like believing all reading must be done in English. Reading in other languages still builds the skills for literacy.
Other barriers are much more concrete, like poverty.
“We have a high poverty rate in a small urban community. What goes with that is other challenges with poverty: diabetes, struggles and challenges from families, single parents raising kids, working full-time,” Fast said. “This is the time they have every day to work with kids every day.”
The goal of StORytime is to simplify learning and literacy, so families with all those struggles can engage their children with everyday activities.
“Even parents or people who have a hard time struggling to read themselves, the push isn’t that they have to read to their kids all the time,” Fast said. “They can do other things to spend time with their kids: take them fishing, just talking to their kids about how school is going, cooking with their kids, doing family things. It’s really to support families, to tie along with what we’re doing in school.”