Foundation Forum: Our obligation to reading is ongoing

by Scott Weber

and Matt Greene

Wilton Education Foundation

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

— Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

The Sept. 24, 2012 headline in the Washington Post said it all — “SAT reading scores hit a four-decade low.” The article went on to say “Reading scores on the SAT for the high school class of 2012 reached a four-decade low, putting a punctuation mark on a gradual decline in the ability of college-bound teens to read passages and answer questions about sentence structure, vocabulary and meaning on the college entrance exam.”

The hard work that is taking place in our schools and at home is a stark contrast to the national data:

•    Class of 2011: SAT Mean Performance — Reading 598 and ranked #1 in Connecticut in Reading and Writing;

•    117 Wilton High School students from WHS Classes of 2011 and 2012 named Advanced Placement Scholars;

•    Class of 2013: Grade 10 CAPT Performance at Mastery Level (Math 84%; Reading 79%; Writing 90%; Science 81%);

•    Class of 2015: Grade 8 CMT Performance at Mastery Level (Math 90%; Reading 92%; Writing 88%; Science 91%);

•    Class of 2018: Grade 5 CMT Performance at Mastery Level (Math 94%; Reading 89%; Writing 84%; Science 90.

The entire Wilton community should celebrate these data since we are all vested in the success of our students. The partnership between teachers, parents, students and the administration to keep reading comprehension (and reading enjoyment!) a priority is also supported by the Wilton Education Foundation. WEF plays a supporting role in this endeavor with its “Reading Rocks!” initiative designed to inspire and motivate K-5 student readers.

“Reading Rocks!” debuted last year with 1,200 students participating. The model is simple and straightforward: Miller-Driscoll and Cider Mill students bring pledge forms home for the Read-A-Thon. They write their commitment to reading on their pledge form and then get pledges from family and friends in support of their commitment. Students choose their own goal for “Reading Rocks!” including reading independently for a set amount of time or a set number of books; having someone else read aloud to them in person or over the phone or even Skype; or reading a picture book aloud to a pet — creativity is encouraged.

Last year, more than $40,000 was raised through “Reading Rocks!” All of the proceeds were in turn donated back to Wilton schools. This helped supplement classroom libraries and support literacy programming at Miller-Driscoll, and helped establish a Building Bookroom and support Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop and content area reading at Cider Mill. Funds were also used to purchase Cider Mill’s first iPad learning cart for creative faculty and student use.

Let’s face it, many of us chose to live in Wilton because of the amazing work that is taking place in our schools. So, it’s not a surprise to see any academic performance score or ranking of our schools and our students far exceeding national trends. However, victory laps aside, the commitment we have made to our students must be sustained. Every opportunity we have to encourage our students to read in the classroom, in the library or at home, should be taken. WEF’s Read Aloud Day promotes classroom reading every year, and many parents spend time throughout the year as guest readers and “centers” assistants. We can never have too many events or too much attention designed to inspire our students to read more. When our students realize their participation in initiatives like “Reading Rocks!” is also contributing to their schools and their community, then we will truly teach our children to read with their “eyes wide open.”

Mr. Weber and Mr. Greene are co-chairs of the Wilton Education Foundation.