Reading is Fundamental

First-grade teachers Darlene Schwab (One Fish), Tonya Smith (Two Fish),  Alyssa Mason (Red Fish) and Rachel Brann (Blue Fish).

Photo by Aaron Ricca.

First-grade teachers Darlene Schwab (One Fish), Tonya Smith (Two Fish), Alyssa Mason (Red Fish) and Rachel Brann (Blue Fish).


Kingman Academy Middle Schoolers with Language Arts teacher Annette McCord (near center with Cat in the Hat doll).

Some young school kids got into reading Thursday. Literally.

About 370 kindergarten, first and second graders at Kingman Academy Primary School spent the day mixing reading with costumes as a slew of activities for the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” day, a nationwide event that happens to take place on none other than the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel – otherwise known as Dr. Seuss.

The children took part in an all-day event dressed as characters from their favorite books. The day had plenty of reading events, starting with Kingman Academy Middle School students reading aloud to the younger generation and ending with a book raffle.

But a character parade through the halls of the school is what really got the kids wired.

“We’re encouraging reading and getting kids to step into it,” said Principle Trudi Bradley, who was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood.

The kids were definitely into it. They marched through the halls – with favorite book in hand – in costumes of popular children’s book characters, superheroes, Disney characters and Harry Potter.

The costumes were a means for the kids to expand their imaginations. One of the requirements at the end of the day was for the children to give a general synopsis of their book, why they chose it, and how their character might play into their everyday lives.

Second grader Ben Poole picked “Skippyjon Jones,” a children’s picture book by Judy Schachner, as his favorite literary character. The story of a Siamese cat who imagines he’s a Chihuahua and goes on adventures with his imaginary Chihuahua friends mirrors Poole’s pet Chihuahua, who he said wants to be a cat.

“He meows and he’s afraid of water,” Poole said of the similarities between his dog and Jones. He and his 17-year-old sister Joela spend time reading to each other to both improve their literacy and avoid electronic distractions.

“My mom got rid of our TV,” he said.

About 50 parents looked on during the costume parade and that involvement is one of the main goals inside and outside the academy.

For kindergartner Jillian Perrine and her mother, April, a special education teacher at the primary school (both dressed as Snow White), reading is a family affair. When asked how many books Jillian has, she answered, “I have a ton.”

Mother, daughter and father, Michael, are all fervent readers and April confirmed that the house is loaded with literacy, both in print and verbal form.

“We’ve been reading to (Jillian) since she was an infant,” April said. “We’ve always instilled reading time.”

Janelle Victory, the school’s Title 1 Reading Specialist (dressed as Mary Poppins), couldn’t stress enough how important literacy is at such an early age. Her job is to work with kids to get them to read at their grade level.

“If a student can read by grade three at that grade level, they have an 80 percent chance of going to college,” she said.

The academy is required to follow the Arizona State Board of Education’s Move on When Reading statute (A.R.S. 15-701) that prohibits a third-grader from moving to fourth grade if they can’t pass a third-grade reading level assessment.

Parental involvement is critical and required at the academy. Victory said the school provides an abundant amount of materials (such as information packets, reading supplements and games) to families to help the kids read at home. Even if a child does begin to lag in literacy, parents are promptly contacted.

“They’re used to us communicating with them,” she said. “Those conversations happen naturally.”

When kids don’t absorb reading skills, it hurts in the long run.

Workplace, Education & Literacy Coalition of Mohave County is part of literacy council throughout the county. President Bruce Carter said the non-profit organization gets grants to recruit students and tutors that work with different age groups.

“In Kingman it’s more adults,” Carter said.

Literacy is more about putting letters together to form words and words together to form coherent thoughts.

“There’s a whole spectrum of levels of literacy,” he said. “People might be able to read and write at a certain level, but they might not be able to read and write well enough fill out a job application.”

Getting someone hooked on reading is a matter of interest and staying hooked can pay off in the end.

“People who can read and write at a higher level are more employable,” Carter said. “For someone who might not be interested in reading, you have to find them something they’re interested in.”

Victory agreed. The energy in the halls of KAPS on Thursday showed those kids are off to a good start.

“Teaching them to love reading now will help them appreciate it later,” she said.