Reaching the readers with rhymes at Tanaina elementary

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) On a snowy day in Wasilla guest readers from numerous walks of life twisted their tongues to bring the words of Dr. Seuss to life for the young students at Tanaina elementary school. It's all part of the National Read Across America Day.

Volleyball players, local newscasters (yes, it was me), and others using the wit and exploring the wonder of perhaps the world's greatest children's author in an effort to inspire the school's students to read.

"Yeah, it's kind of cool because I like reading a lot and I like listening to stories." Said 5th grader John Devine.

"I like the Cat in the hat books, they're my favorite." Echoed fellow classmate Aubrey Stocker.

While all of this may look like fun and games, students surrounding a guest reader from outside, laughing, learning, and enjoying the break from class, it is important to the educational process.

Alaska struggles in literacy, in fact, 58% of all fourth graders are below or severely below proficient in reading according to the 2018 PEAKS survey. Tanaina instructional coach Jen Tollerud wants to see that change. "Early identification is crucial," says Tollerud. Adding "we want to see our kids reading by the time they go upstairs, which is third grade."

According to the Department of Education, the more students read or are read to at an early age the better they score in reading assessments. Which is why programs like Read Across America Day matter.

"Doing a day like today not only honors reading but it brings the passion and love for reading and gets us into books we're all familiar with and I think that's what we need in education right now." Says Tammy Halfacre, the professional development coordinator for the Mat-Su school district.

While a single day at one school may not change the direction of the states testing numbers a focus on these sorts of programs, combined with a commitment from teachers, parents, and the students themselves could. Which is important because after all, in almost any line of work, reading truly is fundamental.

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