Key strategy: Start younger with kids

Print Article

  • Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily NewsSchool District of Beloit Director of Early Literacy Rachelle Elliott reads to (from left) Printessa Pritchard, 2-and-a-half, Conor Sloniker, 16 months, and Nevaeh Fisher, 2, at the Merrill Community Center in October. The School District of Beloit has a literacy initiative underway to reach children age birth to 3.

  • 1

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily NewsSchool District of Beloit Director of Early Literacy Rachelle Elliott reads to Printessa Pritchard, 2-and-a-half at the Merrill Community Center in October. The School District of Beloit has a literacy initiative underway to reach children age birth to 3.

  • 2

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily NewsConor Sloniker, 16 months, learns to love books at a Pop Up Playdate at the Merrill Community Center in October.

  • Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily NewsSchool District of Beloit Director of Early Literacy Rachelle Elliott reads to (from left) Printessa Pritchard, 2-and-a-half, Conor Sloniker, 16 months, and Nevaeh Fisher, 2, at the Merrill Community Center in October. The School District of Beloit has a literacy initiative underway to reach children age birth to 3.

  • 1

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily NewsSchool District of Beloit Director of Early Literacy Rachelle Elliott reads to Printessa Pritchard, 2-and-a-half at the Merrill Community Center in October. The School District of Beloit has a literacy initiative underway to reach children age birth to 3.

  • 2

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily NewsConor Sloniker, 16 months, learns to love books at a Pop Up Playdate at the Merrill Community Center in October.

BELOIT - One way the School District of Beloit is working to improve academic outcomes is to expose the city's tiniest learners to reading.

The school board approved Superintendent Tom Johnson's recommendation to add an administrative position to address early literacy intervention for children age birth to 3 in July.

(Superintendent Johnson is on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.)

Rachelle Elliott was hired as Beloit's Early Literacy Program director, and she's dedicated to reducing the number of struggling readers in the 4K through third grade age group, using a program called Beloit Books Build Brilliant Brains. If kids are exposed to reading early on, Elliott said, studies show they are less likely to struggle as readers and will be better equipped to succeed in school.

To increase exposure of young children to literacy, Elliott is focusing on parent and family outreach, education and mentoring.

In an interview in early October, Elliott said she had been working with Head Start, Even Start, Community Action Inc. and the Stateline Boys and Girls Club to reach more children and parents through what she's named "Families Play, Learn, and Grow Together" playdates. The first playdate was held at the Merrill Community Center on Oct. 4, and one was held in conjunction with ABC Playhouse and Community Action at the Merrill Community Center on Oct. 28.

The hour-long events are open to any child birth to 3-years-old and their

families.

Elliott works with parents on the importance of reading, singing or talking to children. Even if the child doesn't appear to be paying attention, she said the child's brain is developing and learning the building blocks of language.

Although some agencies such as Head Start already offer services to families, Elliott noted a family of three can't earn more than $21,924 to qualify for help.

"Many families slightly over the income threshold aren't receiving coaching and strategies to put language in their child's world," Elliott added.

The district is providing a Family Literacy Conference for families who cannot attend the playdates.

"We can set up a time for families and so we make a specific plan for their family in the areas of reading, math, vocabulary and language development while checking their child's current and future milestones," Elliott said.

The district has a website that can update families on its current events and frequently asked questions at https://www.sdb.k12.wi.us/Domain/694.

Elliott cited a well-known study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995) which found some children hear 30 million fewer words by their fourth birthday than their more privileged counterparts.

Alarmingly, kids who start behind often stay behind, in what is known as the achievement gap.

But Elliott said the gap in language that is present in many communities around the country is solvable. The more parents talk or read to their children, the faster the youngsters' vocabularies grow.

"Early intervention is the key. Parents are a child's first teacher and we want to empower families to be reading and playing with their kids to get them ready for school," Elliott said.

Elliott, who already is working with teen moms in the district, has been reaching out to community partners to broaden the opportunities for small children to develop language. She's hoping to also partner with Latino Service Providers, Stateline Community Foundation, Family Services and the Beloit Public Library.

She also intends to contact healthcare providers in hopes they can work together to get books in the hands of children. Elliott wants to get a literacy booth at the downtown Farmers Market. And she plans to approach daycares, local churches or even apartment buildings to get more playdates set up and volunteers enlisted.

"We would like to create a culture for literacy and provide a language-rich environment for our children. Part of that is getting the entire community on board," Elliott said.

Elliott also is working with ImagiNation Library, through the Dolly Parton Foundation, which signs up families to receive books in the mail.

Another goal is to launch a public campaign encouraging families to read to kids for 15 minutes a day.

"The possibilities are endless. We want to get books in kids' hands so they can hold them and be happy," she said.

Print Article

Read More Classrooms at a Crossroads

Months after town hall, issues still remain for Beloit schools

November 13, 2017 at 9:23 am | BELOIT - In February, School District of Beloit faculty and staff spoke out by the hundreds at a town hall-style meeting held at Beloit Memorial High School, strenuously objecting to what several sai...

Comments

Read More

Why the paper chose to engage

November 13, 2017 at 9:23 am | Earlier this year I sat with Senior Writer Hillary Gavan on the bleachers in Barkin Arena at Beloit Memorial High School. We were there to hear what might come up at a Town Hall meeting involving hun...

Comments

Read More

The few cause disciplinary disruptions for the many

November 13, 2017 at 9:23 am | BELOIT - Despite what you may have heard, the vast majority of students in the School District of Beloit are well behaved. This is the key number: More than 90 percent of the student body had no 300...

Comments

Read More

A look at serious classroom offenses

November 13, 2017 at 9:23 am | BELOIT - Various references are made in these articles regarding level 300 and 400 offenses under the School District of Beloit's code of conduct. But what does that mean? After school personnel at ...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(608) 365-8811
149 State Street
Beloit, WI 53511

©2017 Beloit Daily News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X