Grant to help Lisbon meet reading goals

LISBON –Literacy is the key to all learning but reading can be a tough skill to master for some students, which is why Lisbon teachers applied for a $5,000 grant to help them.

The school board reported at Thursday’s meeting the application for a $5,000 grant from the Turning Foundation had been approved and will be used to a create a library of 1,000 specialty books to assist students in grades K-2 who are having difficulty in grasping the nuances of learning to read.

The grant was the idea of Gwen Weikart, a kindergarten teacher at McKinley Elementary, who prepared the application submitted to the Turning Foundation, a Youngstown-based non-profit that awards educational grants of up $5,000 to help teachers do their job.

Weikart said 75 percent of new readers learned by the sight word method, which are words that readers learn to recognize instantly and effortlessly. Students also learn to read decodeable words, which are words that are spelled the way they sound, such as “cat,” but some have difficulty learning both.

“For some children, they need more help … in blending those sounds together,” she explained.

Knowing the relationship between letters and their sounds help children “decode” words. Weikart and her colleagues said they did not have enough specialized reading materials to continue helping struggling students in sequence as they advance to the next grade level. She said the sets of books purchased with the grant money will help them do that for children in grades K-2.

This age group is being targeted in particular because of the state law requiring that all third-grade students pass a reading proficiency test before moving on to the fourth grade. “We’re trying to close those (reading) gaps as early on as we can” to not only help those students but meet the third-grade reading guarantee, Weikart said.

In other action, the board adopted a resolution in support of Ohio Senate Bill 216, which seeks to give school boards more flexibility in how they run their districts. It would also eliminate unnecessary duplication of state assessment exams, make state reporting requirements less cumbersome, and provide more accurate method to asses a third-grade student’s ability to read and write.