DeWine Touts Science of Reading During Warren School Visit

WARREN, Ohio – Preschool children in a Warren Harding Preschool classroom practiced reading a familiar nursery rhyme, considering what makes a rhyming word rhyme.

These students are part of a growing number in Ohio learning through a science-based approach to reading.

With 40% of third-graders unable to read at grade level, Gov. Mike DeWine said it is now time to go back to teaching with an emphasis on phonics-based skills. He has launched ReadOhio, which is not only for developing readers, but even those in adulthood who have not yet mastered this imperative skill to success.

DeWine said he wishes he had started an initiative pushing this science-based reading four years ago.

“The jury is back. We have a verdict,” DeWine said. “There’s just no dispute, really anymore, about how people learn to read, and there’s a science to it and it’s been studied. It’s been studied for decades. There’s just a hard, hard consensus that this is the way to go.”

DeWine cited statistics in Mississippi, where after switching their focus for four years, students saw reading scores rise from 49th in the country to 29th.

“There’s a lot of important things in education, but I don’t know if there is anything more important than the children learning to read,” DeWine said. “When they can’t read or they don’t read well, they get behind in everything else. This is the key. It is the key to life; it’s the key to happiness; it’s the key to being able to live up to their God-given potential. That’s why we’re doing this.”

First lady Fran DeWine also took the opportunity to promote the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which she says currently provides 390,000 youngsters from birth to age 5 with a book each month. Of those eligible, 58% of Ohio’s children are participating. Since Ohio’s initiative began in 2019, nearly 13 million books have been distributed.

“We know the Imagination Library makes a difference with kids,” Fran DeWine said. “Ninety percent of their brain is developed by the time they are 5 years old, so we can’t waste those early years. It’s so important.”

Parents and caregivers can use the resources of “Read it Again!” – a free, digital resource to build language skills in infants, toddlers and pre-K students, which was developed by the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at The Ohio State University.

Educators can access more resources HERE, including a toolkit to help their schools adjust curriculum to the science-based reading method.

At right, Gov. Mike DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine listen to a preschool reading lesson Friday.

The state general assembly has backed the approach in the budget, which has money earmarked for subsidizing the cost of high-quality instructional materials, covering the costs of stipends for teachers to participate in professional development for the science of reading and to help provide additional literacy coaches. Additionally, private schools can receive funding for support services, including materials, training and literacy coaches.

Warren City School District Superintendent Steve Chiaro said since the beginning of the federal designations, at least one building each year has had an adverse or negative designation, as the school district works to help 4,800 students, many living at poverty level, achieve academic success. After starting this reading program, none of their buildings had a negative designation last year.

Chiaro said Warren learned Monday the school district’s five-star preschool will receive an additional $409,000 annually from the state to help support 300 students.

Chiaro points out that the success of the school’s programs has to do with the commitment and dedication of the staff, 50% of which have attended professional development in the past two weeks.

“It’s working because our teachers, administrators, our superintendent, the directors are committed to the children,” said Kelly Hutchinson, preschool coordinator. “I think that commitment is just so strong. It’s not about what we’re doing – it’s about how we’re going to get our kids where they are going to be.”

Pictured at top: Chris Woolard, interim superintendent of public instruction in Ohio, outlines how schools can prepare to implement the science of reading as soon as possible. He spoke during a visit to Warren City Schools, along with Gov. Mike DeWine and first lady Fran DeWine.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.