Despite our many differences in opinion on politics and policies, most members of our community agree that LRSD needs transformational change. In order to achieve this change, we must address the conditions that make academic growth and authentic, joyful learning possible. Many students' basic needs are not being met either at home or at school (adequate food, medical and mental health services, stable housing, etc.). While this project cannot possibly address every need for every student, there are many practical things that we can do immediately, and we must.
One solution is surprisingly simple yet profound: our middle school and high school students need engaging books on their reading levels, especially our English language learners and those who face significant challenges in their daily lives.
- Most students enter LRSD's academically-distressed secondary schools three or more years behind grade level in reading. This is unacceptable.
- Limited access to high-interest books and time to read in school causes students to fall behind and, ultimately, to hate reading. They stop reading at home. The further behind they become in reading, the more they hate school in general. When students hate school and don't feel a sense of belonging and love, they often act out--with consequences that put them even further behind. Negative reading experiences typically begin in middle school and dramatically reduce students' chances of becoming lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and literate citizens.
- Most school supply and book drives and literacy programs in our community focus on students in elementary schools. That's great! But our teenagers have an urgent need for books, school supplies, and engaging literacy programs, too.
- Many education initiatives focus on systems or schools as a whole. That's great, too! But individual teachers have an urgent need for classroom resources and practical support from the community. Many of our best teachers' spirits are broken. They are under-appreciated and under-supported--and are now leaving the classroom in droves. They spend much of their own meager paychecks to provide students the materials they need to survive and thrive. If we want to help our students and schools, we have to support and retain our best teachers. It's that simple.
This common sense is supported by an abundance of rigorous research on adolescent reading and motivation theory. It's time to put theory into action.