In Arkansas, our educators place a lot of emphasis on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – but without solid reading skills, students will struggle to succeed in those other subjects. In Arkansas, we have created programs to ensure that our students are reading at grade level so that they can succeed in their other studies.
We know that the love of reading makes a positive difference in all our lives. Studies show that children who have access to age-appropriate books in their home are better readers and are more likely to succeed in school, regardless of how much education their parents have.
Unfortunately, not all children have access to books at home, so their reading skills sometimes lag. To address that deficiency, the Arkansas Department of Education launched Reading Initiative for Student Excellence – or RISE for short. One of the primary objectives of the RISE initiative is to make sure that by the time Arkansas students finish third grade that they are reading at third-grade level. We emphasize phonics and the science of reading. For those students who aren’t reading at grade level, we help them through an individualized plan. And we want to create a culture of reading so that reading is an integral part of our students’ lives.
Another priority for the Department of Education is to encourage high school juniors to take the ACT test often and early. The department covers the cost of every junior’s first test. But with its No Limits campaign, the Department of Education is encouraging students to take the test as many times as they need until they are satisfied with their score. A high score increases the number of universities that will accept a student and increases the opportunities for scholarships. The next test is February 27. The department’s website, arkansased.gov, provides a good guide for preparing to take the test.
The ACT test is one place where reading skills meet real life. Those who have developed good reading habits will naturally score better on the ACT.
As Dr. Seuss wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
We want our students in Arkansas to go places. A solid reading foundation is the place to start. Let’s see that our children have access to books and take time to read to them, so that they, too, can go places.