The Pokagon Fund donates to Dowagiac for third grade literacy

Published 7:34 am Tuesday, March 26, 2019

DOWAGIAC — In the 2018-2019 school year, Dowagiac third grade students and teachers were given the opportunity to use new, interactive literacy tools called Literacy Footprints kits that aid students in becoming better readers by cultivating their interest by engagement.

The guided reading kits offer students stories that are of interest to their developing minds in ways that go beyond simply reading out of a text.

The Pokagon Fund recently granted $22,275 to Dowagiac elementary schools for the guided reading kits, which third-grade teachers are implementing in their classrooms.

The Literacy Footprints kits are comprehensive guides, which are designed to cater to individual student reading needs. Literacy Footprints also provide teachers with professional development to better instruct their students in early childhood reading.

“They contain sequenced, high-quality texts in a variety of genres, from fiction or fantasy to informational, to guide children at their own level. They also provide books for kids and guided instructional materials to help the children,” said Janet Cocciarelli, the executive director of The Pokagon Fund.

The donation for the guided reading kits is part of an effort of between The Pokagon Fund and local schools to increase literacy levels of elementary students. Along with guided reading kits, The Pokagon Fund has also donated money to local tutoring and mentoring organizations, schools for in-classroom libraries and other efforts to increase adolescent literacy. While The Pokagon Fund has left room for the schools in their region to decide what solutions are most pertinent for the needs of their students, the Dowagiac elementary schools’ aim at raising third-grade reading aligns with the literacy goals of The Pokagon Fund.

“Between pre-school and third grade, children are learning to read, and after that, they’re reading to learn. If children are not proficient in reading by third grade, statistics show they’re much more likely to struggle the rest of their lives in any level of academic achievement,” Cocciarelli said.

According to Cocciarelli, The Pokagon Fund is working to orient its child literacy efforts to bring third-grade students and younger up to age-appropriate reading levels due to a law passed by former state governor, Rick Snyder, which will hold back third-grade students who are below an age-appropriate reading level. The bill will go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year. While the law is intended to raise literacy standards and scores of pre-third grade students, there is a risk of leaving behind children with low resources, Cocciarelli fears.

“Children who lack resources will be held behind. That’s not fair. We need to make sure provisions are in place so all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, have the tools they need to be successful,” Cocciarelli said.

According to Katrina Daiga, a reading recovery teacher leader and the director of state and federal programs for Dowagiac Union Schools, the Literacy Footprints guided reading kits are examples of quality materials Dowagiac Union Schools are trying to provide their students.

“We’re always looking for the best possible materials to implement with our students,” Daiga said. “It’s the rich content that brings a desire to read. These kits have stories the kids have experiences with, that are not contrived but will see in real life.”