Oregon campaign calls for parents to use everyday activities to help children learn to read

December 2, 2014

Oregon Chief Education Officer Nancy Golden stopped by Reynolds Middle School Tuesday to kick off the state’s stORytime literacy campaign, which aims to encourage families to play an active role in helping their child with reading skills.

More than 250 kindergarten students from Wilkes, Glenfair and Margaret Scott elementary schools, along with parents and community members, gathered in the Reynolds Middle School gym for the event. After an introduction by Golden, kindergarten students rotated through stations, for which they read with middle school partners and participated in an interactive activity led by the Multnomah County Library. Students took home a free book, T-shirt and placemat printed with reading activities.

Gov. John Kitzhaber launched the statewide campaign in late September in partnership with Umpqua Bank. State legislators directed the Oregon Education Investment Board to organize the campaign. Essentially, the stORytime campaign calls on families to help their children develop strong literacy skills through everyday activities at home, such as telling stories, talking, singing and playing.

The Reynolds School District was the sixth and final community launch event for the campaign. Speaking directly to the kindergartners, Golden encouraged them to follow their dreams with the message that strong reading skills are a critical part of their future. She emphasized that literacy is not only learned through reading books.

Golden hopes the campaign will help more children be ready for kindergarten. If more students are on target and do not require remedial reading help as they continue with their education, those resources could go to other areas, she said. Students who need extra reading help can also miss out on other subjects.

“It’s the gateway skill,” she said. “(The campaign) is really going to create that smooth pathway we’re looking for.”

According to Kristin Gimbel, Golden’s communications director and leader of the campaign, the goal is to help get students ready to meet third-grade reading benchmarks. Students who are reading above grade level by third grade are twice as likely to graduate high school, she said. According to Oregon test scores, about 66 percent of third-graders met reading benchmarks in 2014.

Incorporating reading and conversation into family activities can help push the state’s mission, Gimbel said. For example, parents can help their children learn vocabulary through cooking a meal and following a recipe or talking with children while on a hike, she said.

“At the heart of the campaign, it’s really about empowering parents,” she said. “The campaign is designed to meet parents where they are.”

Although the campaign is still new, Wilkes kindergarten teacher Suzy Womack said she appreciates that oral literacy and parent involvement are key components.

“It’s very much in line with what I think our message has consistently been,” she said.

Mindy Wildman, whose son is in kindergarten this year, said she thinks the campaign’s approach is a good way to get parents involved in their children’s education.

“It’s everyday stuff,” she said. “It’s not outside the normal routine.”

According to Gimbel, the state has invested $250,000 in stORytime. In addition to Reynolds, the campaign has focused heavily on high poverty schools including the Reedsport, North Bend and Coos Bay school districts, the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde and Willamina Elementary, the Ontario and Vale school districts and the Klamath Tribe in Klamath County. 

— Laura Frazier | @frazier_laura

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