New reading program aims to help children starting at birth

DETROIT (WXYZ) - There is a literacy crisis right now in Michigan.  

Statewide about 8% of adults don’t have basic reading skills.

In Detroit, a 2015 study found 56% of 8th graders did not have basic reading skills.  So what can be done? 

A new pilot program is trying something new to make a difference. 

The idea comes from research.  Studies have shown that when it comes to teaching children to read, it is a process that is best to start at birth. This leads to a gap in the traditional public education process, which most of the time starts at age 4 or 5. 

“We talk a lot about the importance of the early years and the fact that for young kids and babies about 700 brain connections are made every second. Parents can support those brain connections by talking to their kids and reading to their children,” said Erica Wood, President and CEO of Raising a Reader. 

The national non-profit is working with Detroit Public Schools Community District on the pilot literacy program.  It will work with 100 brand-new moms whose children plan to go to Munger Elementary-Middle School.  They will educate parents, connect them with volunteers to support them, and provide them with access to books. 

The pilot was the idea of retired Chief Justice Maura Corrigan. She says she hopes it helps the district improve lives and deal with a change in law.

The law impacts children who are going in the third grade in 2018. If they are not proficient in reading, they face being held back in school. 

“It (the change in law) is going to impact the Detroit Public Schools Community District in the sense that somewhere around 85% of third graders are not proficient in reading.” 

“This program is going to help our children grow towards proficiency,” said Donnell Burroughs, Principal at Munger.  

The hope is the program helps to level the paying field for children living in poverty. 

“We see kids show yup for the first day of kindergarten and they are already behind,” said Wood. “ Kids coming from more affluent households are exposed to 30 million more words than kids coming from lower income households. By the time they get to be three there is already a 30 million word gap.”

The program needs volunteers. If you are interested in helping you can e-mail Principal Burroughs at Donnell.burroughs@detroitk12.org

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