New literacy campaign focuses on vocabulary building

October 6, 2014

Read original article on Statesman Journal

September 30, 2014 by Queenie Wong

A new literacy campaign that state officials launched Monday encourages parents to help their children learn more words through everyday activities.

That includes playing, talking, singing and reading every day and everywhere.

The campaign, StORytime, is part of a statewide effort to get children reading at grade level by third grade.

“What we know is if parents just talked to their children, tell stories and sing to their children they’re building this very critical pre-literacy skill, which is building vocabulary,” Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden said.

Children from professional families have heard 30 million more words by the time they are 3 years old than those living in poverty, according to the campaign.

The campaign, organized by Oregon Education Investment Board, also comes with a new website that includes activities parents can do with their children to help them learn more words.

Asking kids what colors, shapes and pictures they see at a store or on a walk, making up words to their favorite music and reading books, cereal boxes and road signs are some of the suggestions.

Parents and community members can also submit their stories online through writing or in a video, sharing with others how they are teaching children new words through everyday activities.

Golden and Gov. John Kitzhaber, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith and Ray Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Umpqua Bank, kicked off the campaign at an event Monday at Bridger School in Portland.

The bank’s charitable foundation is doubling the amount of books community members donate to elementary schools as part of the StORytime campaign and helping spread awareness at their local stores.

The goal is for the bank to donate 40,000 books, which will cost an estimated $100,000.

“No one can do this alone. But when government and individuals and businesses come together you can do incredible things,” said Eve Callahan, a spokeswoman for Umpqua Bank.

Events in October and November have been scheduled at five focus communities — East Multnomah County, Malheur County, South Coast, the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde and the Klamath Tribes. State officials picked those communities because of their high-poverty levels and student diversity, Golden said.

She noted that every community is different and the campaign sets the framework for school districts, nonprofits and other community members to spread the word about early childhood literacy.

“We know Oregon is a locally controlled state,” Golden said. “We want to get the information out to let people know how critical it is and we want to have partners that are willing to make some donations and we want to share all the great practices going on in specific communities.”

In the 2013-14 school year, 66 percent of Oregon third graders passed the state reading tests. About 56 percent of Salem-Keizer third graders met the state’s benchmarks in reading.

Krina Lee, the executive director of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, said the nonprofit will be taking a look at the new statewide initiative and how it fits in with their efforts to improve literacy in the community.

“We will evolve and enhance and support this initiative in any way we can,” Lee said.

qwong@statesmanjournal.com, (503) 399-6694 or follow at Twitter.com/QWongSJ.

Get Involved

To learn more about the StORytime campaign or to donate books, visit www.storytimeoregon.com or call 503-373-1283.

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