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Education advocate: Students better prepared through reading

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Lauren Boucher, instructional technology specialist for Pitt County Schools, talks about using technology in classrooms during a panel discussion on Tuesday.


Sharieka Botex
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Half of students who enter Pitt County schools are unprepared and in many cases have not been exposed to books or reading, an early-education advocate said Tuesday.

Melissa Adamson’s comments came during the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce 2016 Education Summit held Tuesday at the Eastern Area Health Education Center.

Adamson, community impact and communications director of the United Way of Pitt County, was among several panelists to provide insight and information about the state of the county’s school system and its students to members of the business community and others who gathered Tuesday for the summit.

Other panelists included Lauren Boucher, an instructional technology specialist for Pitt County Schools; Kylene Dibble, executive director of Parents for Public Schools of Pitt County; Erin Kessel, Pitt County Schools teacher of the year; and Chris Locklear, vice provost for academic success at East Carolina University.

One out of every two students entering kindergarten is unprepared, Adamson said, and that results in a steep cost to the county, which pays $3 million in remediation services. It also comes at a cost to the student.

A large part of a child’s development — about 85 percent of it — occurs between birth and 3 years of age, she said. The amount of words a child has heard by the age of 8 months directly correlates to their vocabulary at 3 years.

That is why reading aloud to children during those early years is the single most important thing parents and guardians can do, Adamson said. Routine reading helps children practice listening and also aides with motivation, creativity and memory.

Unprepared kindergartners struggle later, she said. Pitt County ranks 70th out of 100 counties for third-grade reading scores and 86th for its graduation rate.

“Because (when) you’re not ready for school, when you fast forward 13 or 14 years from now, you’re four times more likely to drop out of high school,” Adamson said. “Our schools are doing a wonderful job making sure the kids that are entering are being pushed through and have excellent experiences and end up graduating, but the statistics and resources are stacked against those students.”

One resource at work to combat the issue is the Imagination Library, which Adamson said was launched this year with a goal to enroll 11,000 children under the age of 5. Currently, 3,000 children have enrolled. Adamson said a lot of Pitt County homes are without books, so advocates hope the program will be of great help.

In addition to efforts to help prepare children for kindergarten, there also are effective methods in place within classrooms to promote the learning of students already enrolled, according to Boucher, one of the other panelists.

As an instructional technology specialist for the school system, Boucher goes from classroom to classroom to teach children and teachers how to use technology as a tool for learning and a resource for productivity.

Technology can be used in classrooms to help students connect with authors and other experts they have referred to in their coursework, Boucher said.

Believe it or not, games like Angry Birds can be used to teach physics. They also keep students engaged with coding projects, which helps with critical thinking, which Boucher said is a key skill for students to have.

“It’s still a priority and focus for me and our district to teach the four Cs, which are communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity,” she said.

“It’s not math, it’s not ELA, it’s not necessarily something that's going to be on an EOG, but it is things that we hear from the business community and we know are important once kids graduate,” Boucher said. “They have to have these skills.”

Contact Sharieka Botex at 252-329-9567 and sbotex@reflector.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShariekaB.