Why is Oregon so SMART? Because Oregon wants to help every child in the state become a reader.
Which is why today I signed up as a volunteer reader.
SMART – Start Making a Reader Today – matches volunteers with young school children whose teachers recommend them for an extra hour of reading a week. Volunteer readers commit to working at school with a student for the whole school year, either reading a book together, or listening while the child sounds out letters and words.
Here’s a cause I wholeheartedly support. I read to my children every single day – not because I wanted them to hurry up and read to themselves but because I understood how literacy would benefit them.
For example, stories provide rich material to help children develop their inner and outer life.
A story can be a window into an experience they don’t already know, like sailing the sea or going up in a rocket or standing up to a bully. Sometimes, a story is a mirror that reflects the child’s own life, like visiting grandma or growing a garden or being a good friend or having two dads.
My own children benefitted from both kinds of stories and more. We read stories that made them laugh, fired up their imaginations, and soothed them before bed. They heard poetry and history and myths and folktales. Through the hundreds of books and stories we read, they absorbed a rich vocabulary of words, some of which we did not necessarily use at home – specific words about sciencey things I didn’t know, or silly, made-up words like vermicious knids and oompa-loompa. They also heard stories in French, the second language in our home. Each child had favorite books that tied them to tales from their Papa’s country.
As I said, I wasn’t in a hurry for my children to read for themselves, but I understood that reading to them early on would prepare them to learn. Research on literacy shows that children who are prepared to read have more self-confidence, do better in school, take more advanced courses, graduate high school, and go to college. Literacy contributes to their emotional well-being, and their eventual economic prosperity.
The SMART program aims to improve reading outcomes in Oregon by increasing the chances for all children to become literate. Now that’s a cause I can get behind.