While controversy is continuing to swirl around the impact that Atlanta educators may have had on the future of the children in their classrooms, one group of Atlanta public school teens is taking the future of their younger counterparts into their own hands.
Reading skills are essential to a student’s future both inside and outside the classroom. Children who haven’t honed such skills by the third grade are far more likely than their other classmates to drop out of high school and be forced into a detrimental cycle of poverty and unemployment.
Students at Sylvan Hills Middle School, however, have taken it upon themselves to rescue younger students from such a bleak future.
Members of the Sylvan Hills Middle School student council are hosting a reading workshop for the students at their feeder school, Perkerson Elementary, in hopes to get second and third graders excited about reading.
The initiative, called I Read to Achieve Academic Success, was launched by 7th grade English Language Arts teacher Latisha Blackburn.
By getting the younger students excited about reading, Blackburn and the middle school students hope that their young peers will see a surge in reading proficiency that has long eluded many Georgia students.
“Only 34% of Georgia’s third graders are reading proficiently by the end of the school year, which means two out of every three third graders cannot read proficiently in Georgia,” according GetGeorgiaReading.org
That’s the type of statistic Blackburn hopes this program will change.
“The idea started out as a push to get Sylvan students reading,” she said in a press release. “A lot of the students come in with significant reading deficits, so my colleagues and I wanted to introduce the Millions Words Campaign in a way that the students would get excited about reading.”
The initiative has even created a line of t-shirts using pop culture to create a larger appeal for reading.
“My Lexile Measure is #ONFLEEK,” the shirts read.
Lexile measures are used to represent a student’s level of reading using a developmental scale.
The reading workshop will bring second and third graders together with students from the middle school to show them how they can pick out books that will fit their personal interest, demonstrate the importance of reading proficiency and even provide students with some free books to jump start what will hopefully be a newfound love of reading.
The press release also promises special guests will be in attendance to help boost the students’ spirits.
While Blackburn hopes all students will participate in the initiative she was particularly hopeful about Black students who face educational and economic disadvantages having a free event that could boost their reading proficiency and overall interest in education.
Even more, she was excited about such students pushing for these changes themselves instead of waiting on a distant third party to create change.
“It’s important for me to get my students to understand what social injustices are and what that means for their futures,” she added. “I want them to embody the movement that Black Lives Matter, and not to expect that someone is going to step in from the outside to give us resources. I champion intrinsic success to motivate ourselves and our neighbors.”
The workshop will take place at Perkerson Elementary school on April 24 as a part of Global Youth Service Day.