When parents and children both work on literacy skills, everyone wins—the parent, the child, and the community. Such approaches are sometimes called two-generation approaches and reflect the symbiotic relationships that naturally occur within families.

In 1994, political and educational leaders came together to designate November 1 as National Family Literacy Day. Now the month of November is recognized as National Family Literacy Month!

To find out more about family literacy and its impact on educational outcomes, visit the site for the National Center for Families Learning.

Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County students from three locations came together October 30 for a book release party. They were celebrating publication of books they wrote in small groups using the WRiTE BRAiN curriculum and were proud to show their names as authors on the covers.

Pictured are authors from Telstar Elementary.

To volunteer after school as a homework helper, visit Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County

Thanks to all our sponsors, in-kind donors, Club Pro, emcee, volunteers, and participants who made this year’s Scrabble Showdown the best yet!

We look forward to seeing even more friends of literacy next year!

Our director recently attended the national conference for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, where she heard from leaders in other cities who have made a concerted effort to improve 3rd-grade reading rates. As a community lead for GLR in OKC, OKC Metro Literacy Coalition wants to find more ways for coalition members and partners to work together to move the needle to improve 3rd grade reading rates in our community.

Sadly, one-third of students nationwide—OKC included—do not score proficient on reading by the end of 3rd grade.

Since in 4th grade students are generally expected to “read to learn,” those students who are behind in reading skills are at a distinct disadvantage. Statistically, students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and have more limited job opportunities later in life.

As one GLR speaker put it, “Failure to read is both an education and an economic problem.” This is especially true since more than 80 percent of kids not reading at grade level are low-income.

“Every time we teach someone to read by fourth grade, we rescue someone,” said Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia.

Although schools are responsible for providing effective teaching for all children in every classroom every day, the Campaign for GLR is founded on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone.

GLR encourages communities to focus on the three pillars of school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning to see gains in reading scores.

With the start of a new school year, we can all think of ways we can engage to help a child, a parent, a teacher, a school ensure that ALL children in OKC are on track to read proficiently by the beginning of 4th grade. In the coming months, OKCMLC will be adding more resources to our website with ways to engage in this initiative for our city. In the meantime, you can find some places to volunteer by visiting the Volunteer tab of our website.

ReadOKC, an initiative of the Foundation for OKC Public Schools, is seeking literacy champions to help promote a love of reading in the kids of our city.

Two big ways to help:

  1. Champion or steward a Little Library near an OKC elementary school. Champions provide approximately $750 to purchase and install the Little Library. Stewards check the Little Library regularly to assess whether the book selection needs to be restocked (by themselves or a different source).
  2. Become a Reading Buddies organizational partner or volunteer. Read with an elementary student 30 to 45 minutes per week at a designated school.

For more information, contact Abbie Dedmon at abbie@okckids.com or 405-604-5977.

At a recent symposium hosted by Payne Education Center, titled Reading Instruction Matters, one of the speakers raised this important question: Why are we waiting until kids are in 3rd grade to identify specific reading delays?

 That speaker was Michelle Keiper, a teacher turned advocate after her own son had difficulty learning to read in elementary school. She founded Decoding Dyslexia OK to provide resources and support for students, parents, and educators on issues related to dyslexia.

If the NIH (National Institutes of Health) says dyslexia can be diagnosed by age 5 1/2, why are we waiting so long to identify?” she said. “Third grade is too late.” She said identifying dyslexia and other specific learning disorders earlier could prevent many children from falling through the cracks with regard to reading.

With dyslexia, the brain processes language differently, making it challenging to make the sight and sound connections necessary for reading and spelling. Signs of dyslexia include delayed speech, trouble rhyming, lack of a dominant hand, and confusion with left to right.

Approximately 17% of children are affected by dyslexia. Without targeted instruction, 50% of these students will not graduate high school and likely have fewer options for later employment. Some estimate that 50% of prison inmates exhibit signs of dyslexia and had unaddressed learning difficulties when in school.

Yet many classroom teachers were not taught how to identify and instruct students with dyslexia.

Specific, explicit, multisensory instruction is essential,” said Heather Johnson, Executive Director of Payne Education Center. Payne offers trainings on evidence-based strategies on these topics.

Reading is currency today. So we owe it to all kids to help them learn how to read,” said Johnson.

For a diagnosis of dyslexia, children should be evaluated by an educational psychologist or other trained diagnostician. Payne has a list of testing resources on their site.

Payne’s motto is that “no child should struggle to read.” They offer teacher professional development in classroom and therapy reading instruction. They also offer a 4-hour volunteer tutor training called Reading Instruction 101 that can be a beneficial tool for community volunteers and parents. To see a full listing of their trainings, visit their training calendar.

What does childhood trauma have to do with literacy rates? Actually, a lot. Continued research points to the physiological effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on children. These effects, if left unaddressed can then extend into adulthood. Oklahoma ranks number 1 in the nation for children affected by adverse childhood experiences, according to America’s Health Rankings, 2016 edition.

Graph - Source: Barth et al (2008). Credit: Center on the Developing Child

The Potts Family Foundation recently hosted a local one-day conference to spotlight the impact of ACEs and discuss hopeful paths forward. National and local experts explained how growing up in an environment of long-term, toxic stress impacts the development of organs, including the brain, on a cellular level. In addition, children who are in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze have brains where the survival instinct takes over and reduces their immediate capacity to develop more and stronger pathways to other parts of the brain necessary for reading and school, among other things.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2015): “This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.” Prolonged trauma can decrease the volume of the areas of the brain responsible for cognitive functions such as short-term memory, emotional regulation, and higher cognitive functions, according to the Children’s Bureau.

The answer lies in children having at least one engaged, stable adult in their lives who can help them navigate the stress. Trauma-informed care and schools can change an adults reaction to a struggling child from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” The latter opens the door for rebuilding pathways for learning and life. 

For more information about the Raising Resilient Oklahomans summit hosted by Potts Family Foundation and to see a list of future showings of the helpful documentary Resilience, visit OK 25 by 25.