October 30, 2014 Arrival Time: 7:30 a.m.
Over the past two weeks I have had great discussions with our staff regarding our strategies to increase the reading skill of all Northview students. It may seem simple to state that to be a proficient reader you must read more. How we get kids to read more is a district-wide strategy.
We have tens of thousands of books available to our students throughout the school district. Our classroom libraries have grown each year, students know how to access books electronically, community members donate books to our schools, our teachers/staff buy books out of their own funds, and our Northview Education Foundation has provided grants to our teachers to purchase additional titles. Our staff has engaged in professional development to build “best practice” strategies for accelerating the ability of our students to read and comprehend at high levels. Some of the best national professionals in literacy have coached our teachers and principals over the past few years.
You would expect this in Northview. What I did not expect came from the excitement of a third grade girl this morning. Her simple and elegant statement “I just love the smell of new books!” made me laugh out loud (I am told I could use lol here instead of the actual words – Mark Twain may have agreed as I remember reading that he wasn’t paid by the word).
Her teacher received a shipment of new books last night and she had spread them out on a table in her classroom. The teacher shared that she still gets excited when new books arrive – even after 29 years of teaching. The teacher predicted that the kids in her class would have touched each book within seconds of arrival this morning.
I am guessing it is a little harder to capture the “smell of a new book” when you download it on an IPad but I am guessing there will be an Ap for that in the near future. Next time I get the car washed and they ask me what fragrance I desire, I am boldly stating “new book.”
During drop-off duty I started asking kids if there was anything happening tomorrow that they cared about. The first boy said “yes, its my birthday.” I replied “it will be cool that everyone gets dressed in a costume to celebrate your birthday.” He shot back “look the lights are on at the stadium and the band is playing.” I think he turns 7 tomorrow and I decided I couldn’t handle another change in what we were talking about so I refrained form saying the song was in his honor.
The same student came back a few minutes later and told me that it is also Halloween tomorrow and I should think about dressing up. Note: My wife Ruth did make me a costume that looks like the candy dots on a strip of paper. The staff knew what it was but not all the kids.
Meanwhile Back at East Oakview……..
Second grade students have learned how to have “book talks.” You heard me right. Today, a girl with a spider clip in her hair sat next to me and explained why she would recommend Now One Foot, Now the Other, by Tomie dePaola. She informed me that the author is her favorite and he has written other books. The student is not an exception. I had book talks with two others in the brief time I was in the room.
Because of Winn Dixie was the book of choice in two third grade rooms. Students were providing proof that “Opal was good at making friends.” (If you don’t know who Opal is, I suggest you visit East Oakview and ask a third grade student.) The other room was using Character Theory by talking about what made Opal’s heart race? They also discussed what made their hearts race when listening to the book. A collective sigh of disappointment was heard when the teacher finished the chapter.
Students begin to develop their love of reading at home and in our kindergarten and first grade classrooms. The workshop stations in kindergarten allow students to work in small groups, get creative with art supplies, build things out of old cardboard boxes and blocks, and then have the opportunity to talk with the teacher about what they are doing in each station. I am always amazed how a kindergarten teacher can sing the pick-up song and 25 five-year old kids put the room back in order and sit down in front of the teacher chair, ready for the next lesson.
Equally amazing was the how a first grade teacher helped a student learn how to pick the right book – “Level 6 is too easy for you. Close your fingers into a fist and then read a page of the book. Release one finger each time you come to a word you don’t know. You didn’t have any fingers released and that means you should choose level 7 and 8 books.” This same teacher then moved on to hold 7 individual conferences with students about poetry.
Today is the last Thursday of the month and that means parents are running the popcorn sale. Since it is the day before Halloween the sales might be down a little bit but not much. I am betting that some of the profits from the popcorn sale goes to buying more books.
The Important Stuff……
I missed talking with my life coach Travis today. However, I did remember some important stuff:
- Tens of thousands of books in classroom libraries across our school district.
- Thousands of pages read every day.
- Thousands of students increasing their reading fluency and comprehension.
- Halloween is tomorrow and somebody has a birthday.
- Hearing the band play at the stadium under the lights is more important than talking to the superintendent.
- Remember to look up at the sky when the sun is rising.
- If you ask people what they care deeply about they most likely will tell you and show you.
Sincerely and With Great Respect,
Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent