Literacy Efforts at Jefferson Elementary School in Winslow are Getting Kids Excited About Reading

Winslow, AZ | Submitted by Jodie Garner

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At Jefferson Elementary School in Winslow, educators have long been working to create a love of learning in their students. They’ve particularly emphasized reading, which opens the doors to so many creative, educational and eye-opening experiences.

Two years ago, the school’s continuous improvement committee developed an idea that would take their literacy efforts to the next level. The school already had events, such as “Reading Under the Stars” and “Snow Much Fun to Read!” literacy nights to make reading fun and include family. This year, the high school athletes planned special events to read with younger students. But they knew there was more that they could do. The resulting DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) program would leverage the fact that students were already coming to school early for breakfast.

After students finish their breakfast, they head to their classroom and read before class begins. They typically have time for at least thirty minutes with their chosen book, which teachers have said gets them in the right mindset for learning and creates a calm atmosphere. So far, an average of 320 students participate at Jefferson every single day.

It’s important that youth have an opportunity to read every day, since fewer than half of Arizona third graders are currently proficient in English language arts. Fostering a love of literacy in young children is one of the most important things that educators can do. And the DEAR program is all made possible thanks to the generosity of teachers who volunteer their time to be available and build this culture of literacy, in addition to the grandparent volunteers who aid struggling readers.

Of course, reading a good book is reward enough. But to ensure that kids stay engaged, the principal and duty staff make rounds every day to hand out “blue shoe” reward tickets to students who are reading before school begins. These tickets can put into a weekly raffle to win prizes. They can even earn tickets for the reading carnival, which will be held in the spring of 2018, by taking reading tests and accumulating points.

It should come as no surprise that DEAR is having a big impact at the school. Leadership has seen positive effects on their DBBLS assessments and has noticed marked improvements among their students who were not strong readers. But most importantly, they have witnessed more and more students who are learning to love reading.


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