By Ingrid Schnader
Five Over the Mountain schools are among 50 schools in the state recognized for showing the most improvement in third-grade reading performance.
The Alabama State Department of Education announced on Aug. 21 the 50 schools that showed the most improvement in third-grade reading performance in the state.
Three of these schools are part of the Hoover City Schools: Bluff Park Elementary, Deer Valley Elementary and Greystone Elementary. Two Mountain Brook schools also made the list: Mountain Brook Elementary and Crestline Elementary.
Each school will receive a check for $20,000 from the Alabama State Department of Education.
At Greystone Elementary, reading coach Cherri Johnson and principal Stacey Stocks said they have different strategies to keep their students engaged with books.
Last year, the school had an initiative to see how much time was spent outside of school hours reading not only books, but also leisure reading materials such as comic books or magazines.
“Our target was 500,000 pages, and they read 539,875 pages,” Johnson said. “So, we met our goal. The more you read, the better reader you’re going to be.”
The teachers try to make reading fun, Johnson said. They will turn out all of the lights and have “flashlight reading time,” or they will pitch tents across the room and “camp” while reading. Stocks said sometimes they will have a day when kids can go to school in their pajamas and read all day.
“Just all kind of things. We do some traditional stuff, some not traditional stuff, and just try to make it as fun as we can,” Johnson said.
The lower grades at Greystone Elementary have a 150-minute language arts block every day, and the upper grades have a 120-minute block. This time is used for reading and writing.
“We attack reading with word skills, like word knowledge and vocabulary, but also comprehension,” Stocks said. “We try to help them be well-rounded readers so that they understand what they’re reading.”
The school also is giving students the opportunity to read online. Stocks said the school recently purchased access to a website called myON, which starts with an interest survey and then gives the student a library of books based on that student’s survey and reading level.
“Reading gives them access to the world,” Stocks said. “And we see that reading is important in math, reading is important in all aspects. Being able to read and understand is key to their success. When kids are really good readers, then they tend to do well across the board academically.”
Johnson agreed. “Even if kids can’t travel to certain places, you can read about those places and learn,” she said. “And the more you read, the more knowledge you get. Reading is the basis for everything.”
The students who have higher ACT scores are usually the ones who always had a book in their hands when they were in elementary school, Stocks said.
“Their vocabulary is much more developed because of the amount of words they have read,” Johnson said. “So, they can communicate easier and more clearly.”
The administration announced the recognition to the students at a pep rally Aug. 22. Johnson said they could hardly announce it because the students were so loud and excited. The celebration continued with a dance party and popsicles outside.
Students went up to Johnson after the celebration expressing their excitement.
“I know that it has encouraged kids to want to read, to be a better reader,” she said.