Mayor's Book Club
A quick review of the 2010 No Child Left Behind Report put out by the State of New Jersey Department of Education revealed that kids in several South Jersey school districts are struggling to make the Language Arts proficiency (http://education.state.nj.us/rc/nclb/nclb.php?c=07;d=0940).
Studies have shown that students who cannot read by third grade are more likely to drop out of high school than a child who can read. It’s no wonder that many of our prison inmates are in fact, school dropouts.
The New Jersey League of Municipalities in partnership with Rowan University and financial support from Verzion, PSE&G and South Jersey Industries and the Mayors in eight New Jersey schools took to heart this dilemma and reached out to make a difference. They worked with first grade students to prepare them for the reading rigors of third grade by encouraging them to join the Mayors Book Club. They heard the buzz that high school graduates fuel the economy and that dropouts cost taxpayer dollars.
The second annual Mayor’s Book Club, a program instituted by the Educational Foundation of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, worked with mayors from municipalities located in four South Jersey counties
Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem and Camden to stem the tide of lack of proficiency by challenging first-graders in their local school districts to read at least eight books
during a three-month period.
The program was kicked off in January when the Mayors visited the schools and read aloud to the first graders. The Mayor’s read aloud to the students and challenged them to a goal of reading eight books from February through May.
Each child who met this goal would receive books for their personal libraries at home. Additionally, in a unique twist, school districts where children read at least 1,000 books could receive $1,000 to purchase books for first-graders to read in their classrooms. Having books in school and at home signals to students their active membership in the literacy club.
The response to reading by these eager first graders netted a total of 18,133 books read! Reading is fundamental to learning. And books can teach about the world. They can be the key equalizer to providing entry into new worlds and places a student may never have dreamed of going.
The Mayor’s Book Club in eight South Jersey towns ended with a final celebration in late May with students, teachers and the Mayors gathered in celebration over cookies, books, and t-shirts that read “Super Reader.” The first grade teachers, Mayors, and Rowan volunteers joined forces to help the first grade students meet their goal and to reverse the decline in Language Arts proficiency in the State of New Jersey; hooray for these “Super Readers!”
First published in New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 7, October 2012