We are committed to supporting early literacy in our community for our children and our future. We know that a literate society increases individual and community well-being as well as economic vitality.
We are requesting a Rotary grant to fund dictionaries for third grade students in our six to eight highest impoverished schools in Mesa, and a classroom set of books to supplement the literacy curriculum in one of these high need schools.
Goal: 1,400 dictionaries and 1 classroom library to impact an estimated 1,600 students
Target completion date: September 15, 2021 for the Dictionary Project and October 15, 2021 for the Literacy Project.
The grant will allow every third grade student in the most impoverished schools (6-8 schools have been identified) to have his/her own dictionary to use in and outside of school. Multiple teams of Rotarians will place "Mesa Rotary" labels in the dictionaries, then box and distribute them to the schools. Once delivered, Rotarians will meet with students and staff to teach the children how to use their dictionaries. We estimate that 20 or more members of our Club will participate and we will spend up to 30 to 45 minutes at each school.
For the literacy project, the classroom set of books will allow students to check out high-quality literature to take home and read, and then return. Our team leader will coordinate with Redbird's Principal to purchase and install the literacy set. We will start with three to four Rotarians and invite our Interact and Rotaract volunteers to provide a 30-60 minute introduction to the young students and their new classroom library.
Learning to read is a key milestone for children living in a literate society. Students need access to high-quality reading materials to increase their literacy environment, vocabulary, and appreciation for reading. Third grade reading ability is one of the best predictors of high school graduation (firstthingsfirst.org).
Redbird Elementary is the proposed school for the literacy project, and their demographics and student achievement are similar to the other identified schools. Redbird is located in one of the most impoverished parts of our community and enrolls 500 students in grades K-6. The students are from a diverse ethnic background (65% Hispanic, 15% White, 7% Black, 5% two or more races, 4% Native American, and 4% Native Hawaiian, Asian or Pacific/Other Islander), with over 80% of the students from low income families (Greatschools.org).
A vast body of research notes that students from low income families are at an increased risk for reading difficulties (Dubow & Ippolito, 1994; Juel, Griffith & Gough, 1986; Smith & Dixon, 1995). Additionally, 10-15% of students with significant reading difficulties will drop out of high school and only 2% will complete a four-year college degree (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000). Student achievement on the state assessment, AZ Merit, falls below state averages in English at Redbird (Redbird is 30% compared to 42% for the State in English, 28% compared to 42% in math, and 48% compared to 52% science, respectively) (Greatschools.org).
Given the high poverty and low student achievement, Redbird has a passionate principal and experienced staff (with over 97% of them with more than 3 years of teaching experience who are ready and willing to take on the task. The project is also supported by the district superintendent.
The dictionary and classroom library projects will support literacy and student achievement.