Teachers and librarians at one Knox County library said they have found a key to success in student reading readiness and the system is already seeing results.
Research shows that 40% of Knox County kindergartners are not on grade level when they start school. However, educators said hundred, even thousands of those children spent their summer working to improve that number.
The "Kids Who Read Succeed" is an academic program which goes outside the classroom and encourages one of two things, for parents to read with their child at least 20 minutes a day or for older kids to read on their own every day for the same amount of time.
The program is a partnership between Knox County Schools and the Children's Reading Foundation.
At the end of the last school year, 11,000 children enrolled. By the start of the school year, just over 7,300 of those reached their goal.
Those behind the program said having that many students improving their minds over the summer means big things for them now and down the road. "Two things we know without a doubt; Reading to children from birth is critical to brain development and future success and reading over the summer will help students maintain skills when they re-enter school in August," said Library Director Myretta Black.
The system officials released the program results on Wednesday, along with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and School Superintendent Doctor Jim McIntyre at Fountain City Library. Administrators said "Kids Who Read Succeed" is just another part of the county' s strategic plan which is designed to have all students able to read well by the end of third grade.
Together with the Children's Reading Foundation, the school district plans to soon start airing public service announcements about the program featuring Coach Derek Dooley.
"When you really look at the statistics - 20 minutes a day. How many more words are they introduced to, whether it's a parent reading to a child, or even a child who can actually read, practicing reading - their vocabulary just expands - it's like any other skill. You've got to practice it to be good at it," said Angie Tierney with the Children's Reading Foundation.
On top of the 7,300 students who achieved the summer reading goals, the county's elementary schools also competed against one another. Sequoyah, Beaumont, Mount Olive and Sterchi took top honors. As a reward, they will each host a nationally acclaimed storyteller during the upcoming school year.