Better readers celebrated at Floyd Light Middle School

Learn how this creative approach helps kids learn better reading skills – instead of pushing and punishing them for reading poorly …

Amy Morinville, the reading program coordinator at Floyd Light Middle School, gets a bite of dinner, before telling about the success they’ve achieved.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Educators in the David Douglas School District are demonstrating the importance they put on early reading skills – to make sure some kids don’t get “left behind” while in middle school.

We attended a “reading celebration” a couple of weeks ago, to learn how these educators are helping kids become good readers.

Floyd Light Middle School’s Principal, Mark Gaulke, told us at the after-school event, “I’ve been watching the students’ progress as the year has gone on. It’s nothing short of amazing to see some of the growth that they’ve achieved.”

Gaulke introduced us to Amy Morinville, the school’s Title I programs coordinator, and a teacher using the Scholastic’s Read-180® system.

Cailynn Pepion serves Mark Pierce slices of Pizza Baron pizza.

Boosting below-grade reading skills

“This year, we had 110 students in our program,” Morinville said. “All of the kids who come into this program started below-grade-level in reading; they did not have functional literacy skills. Somehow, they’ve made it through school to this point – or, they are ESL kids who are learning to read English. They all need more instruction.”
In middle school, the educator continued, students should be shifting from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”, if they are to successfully complete high school. “Then, if they go directly into the workplace, they need to be proficient to get and keep a job. Students who are considering higher education – be it college or technical training – increase their chances for success if they read and comprehend well.”

About 95% of the students in the program made significant improvement, she said. “It’s a pretty good percentage!”

Everyone being served at the event agrees that a pizza party is a good way to celebrate – anything!

Rachel McClain delivers another batch of fresh, bubbling hot pizzas from Bill Dayton’s Pizza Baron just ‘down the block’ in outer SE Portland on SE 122nd Ave. at Division St.

Celebrating success
In the school’s cafeteria, the evening’s event was part pep rally, part awards ceremony – and a pizza party, rolled into one.

“This event is our opportunity to recognize kids who are making progress, and we’re celebrating their performance,” explained Morinville. “We celebrate kids who have increased their grade level of reading, completed the most segments on the computer-aided learning program and read the most books. We also congratulate those who have shown growth from their state assessment scores last year.”

The point of having a pizza party, Morinville, added is to “Keep them excited about reading, staying in school, and building a strong learning ethic.”

Sixth-graders Lili Drumheller and Savannah Garland say they’re better readers – and students – thanks to the program.

Students praise program
We asked a couple of students to tell about their experiences in the program.

“Before coming in this program, I didn’t have good grades,” confided Lili Drumheller. “Now, because I can read better, I learn better, and I’m getting better grades. When you go to college, you have to be able to read well, so you can learn the [subject] material and do really well on your tests.”

Classmate, Savannah Garland agreed, “I wasn’t as fluent a reader as I am now. As a fluent reader, I can read much faster, and, understand what I read much better. Also, I’ve become good at spelling and learning new words, also.”

Hopes to grow program
Morinville says if the school can recruit more parent volunteers, next year’s program can accommodate 65 additional students. “We want all of our kids to become good readers; it’s the basic stepping-stone to doing well in life.”

The “Reading Wall of Fame”: As the young people complete segments and achieve new levels of reading competency in reading, they sign wall-sized posters like this one.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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