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Written by Denise Gary
Photographs © Bruce Matsunaga
Kids Need to Read (KNTR) and Arizona State University (ASU) have been working together with ASU Preparatory Academy (ASU Prep) in Phoenix, Arizona to inspire a Reading Revolution! The project, which launched in September with a Skype video conference between the middle school students of ASU Prep and author/game creator PJ Haarsma, is being developed to complement school efforts to increase literacy rates and reduce dropout rates. KNTR has partnered with ASU Prep faculty and ASU Tempe’s English Education Program to develop a unique and engaging curriculum designed to greatly impact the futures of the most disadvantaged middle school children and to provide the resources necessary to carry out the program. The Reading Revolution program impacts 142 students at the downtown Phoenix charter school, many of whom arrive at ASU Prep with exceptionally low literacy skills. Program leaders are introducing the academy’s students to the world of literacy in a way they have previously never experienced, incorporating not only class sets of books but also computers, eBooks, multi-media games, author interactions, and an enriched curriculum that combines English language arts, science, math, and social studies. In addition to rigorous classroom studies, other program activities conducted since the kickoff have included a KNTR reading pledge drive at ASU Prep’s fall festival in October and a student project presentation in November.
During the September launch, students were treated to a visit from space “aliens” Blazore and Gayree from Orbis 3 (played by KNTR Chair/ASU Director of English Education James Blasingame and KNTR Executive Director Denise Gary).
ASU Professor in Residence Josephine Marsh made introductions.
The students did not know what awaited them until the aliens came out and regaled them with tales of Orbis.
Apparently, reading glasses are widely used throughout the universe.
Author PJ Haarsma playfully provided laughter prompts in the background unbeknownst to Blazore and Gayree.
Eventually, he was found out!
PJ introduced students to the topics of quantum physics, space travel, speciation, galactic geography, human relocation, The Softwire science fiction series, and the Rings of Orbis virtual literary experience.
Blazore chose students to participate in a demonstration of the vast distances of space.
The students listened attentively throughout the engaging program.
Kids eagerly tried to answer PJ’s questions.
The students asked PJ questions at the end of the program, including where they could read the books. KNTR provided class sets of books and other resources to the school for use in The Softwire integrated academic unit, which emphasized educational technology to address the National Common Core Curriculum and the International Society for Technology Education National Educational Technology Standards. An HD webcam and video conferencing was provided by KNTR via a Skype grant.
Kids Need to Read has received additional grant funding to produce similar units of study for the students of ASU Preparatory Academy. The school will provide ongoing research on affected literacy rates so that Kids Need to Read might offer research proven methods of increasing skills while decreasing dropouts. Future plans call for the expansion of this pilot program throughout the United States in schools seeking to inspire their students with cutting-edge approaches to literacy improvement and reduced dropout rates.
Reading Revolution Program Partners
Arizona State University
ASU Preparatory Academy
Avnet Contributions Council
National Home Library Foundation
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