State education campaign encourages learning in everyday situations

October 22, 2014

COOS BAY — To become what Oregon’s chief education officer calls a “super reader,” reading has to be fun.

Chief education officer Nancy Golden came to Southwestern Oregon Community College on Wednesday, talking with more than 450 Reedsport, North Bend and Coos Bay kindergartners about the importance of reading.

The trip is part of the state’s newest initiative, stORytime, an early literacy campaign focused on making sure kids are proficient readers by third grade.

A huge emphasis is placed on third grade reading because it’s a critical transition point in a child’s education, said Kristin Gimbel, communications director for Golden’s office.

“They’re moving from learning to read to reading to learn,” she said. “It transcends into other content areas.”

It ties in to the Oregon Education Investment Board’s recent strategy recommendations to the governor, in which a major focus was placed on kindergarten readiness and third grade reading.

Gimbel said the state called for kindergartners specifically to come to the event because “we felt like they’re in such an important transition point from early learning to elementary school.”

“It’s an opportunity to excite them about literacy-building and reading,” she said.

And they were excited. Performances by Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians tribal flutist Doc Slyter, drumming from an Educare group and books read by local teachers and volunteers allowed the students to “talk, read, play and sing” — the campaign’s tagline.

It gives parents tips on ways to incorporate literacy and vocabulary into everyday interactions with their kids.

North Bay Elementary principal Colleen Reeves said this is the first time a statewide education campaign like this has come to the Bay Area.

In some cases and in “pockets” of the community, parents are not engaged in their child’s education, Reeves said.

Part of that is families not connecting with education and recognizing its importance, but a lot of it is also how busy families are today, she said.

“They’re juggling multiple jobs, and it’s hard to make (reading) a priority,” she said. “Even five minutes of reading to your child helps, wherever you can find the time.”

Reeves finds time to read to her grandchildren while they’re taking a bath. Golden said her grandchildren come to her house almost every day to find a toy or book on her beanbag chair.

“This (event) is showing the importance that we have to work with kids prior to school,” Reeves said.

Every child got to choose and take home a book on Wednesday. Their parents got a grocery bag full of ideas for learning words.

Umpqua Bank’s new charitable foundation made its first investment in this campaign, matching community donations of up to $100,000 to put more than 80,000 books in Oregon families’ homes.

“I know all of you have super big dreams,” Golden told the room of youngsters. “One of the most important ways you can become a super good reader is to learn more words.”

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