I teach at an inner city school in which 100% of our student population is considered "Economically Disadvantaged" according to our most recent data. We have have one of the highest populations of English Language Learning students in district secondary schools with almost 50% of our students reporting that they speak a language other than English. A great many of our students come to us speaking little to no English and those who do speak English are struggling with higher level comprehension and literacy skills.
Despite the great disadvantages so many of my students start their educations with, in them I see the will and determination to succeed.
They don't allow their circumstances to define them. Despite a social climate that creates fear for their safety and stability they continue to show up and work hard every day. These are students with big dreams and the will to create them. They utilize the help they find here to create relationships and build a solid foundation for their future.
Research has suggested time and again that one of the most effective ways to help struggling and disengaged readers is to ask them to read. Just simply to read. The number of minutes per day that a student spends reading is directly correlated to their ability to pass standardized tests of English skills. A child who reads for only 20 minutes per day reads 1.8 million words per year and is likely to score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests of Reading.
But reading means more than simply being able to pass a test.
Reading is a means of exploring concepts and issues that are meaningful to our lives in a way that is safe and sheltered from true harm. Reading allows us to explore big ideas in a manageable way. It allows us to experience the world within the confines of our own homes. But for many of my students, they have never experienced the joy of reading a book and discovering a character, or story line in which they can see themselves or their families.
In my cart you can see that the bulk of the books I have chosen have characters of color or story lines about issues that are relevant to my students today. I have many books in my classroom library. But I do not have nearly enough books for my students that they find meaningful and pertinent to their own life experiences. I am hoping with this DonorsChoose.org project to remedy this situation and give my struggling readers a chance to see that there are actually books available in which they can see themselves and their lives represented.
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