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February 2015 Vol. 22 No. 4 Focus on Learning to Read

From reading to community

Photo: Charles Mostoller

Student teacher Deija Brantley works with students on their reading skills in a kindergarten class at Ziegler Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia. Ziegler is piloting a new reading program as part of the School District’s expanded commitment to promote early literacy.


Bill Hangley Jr.

It’s family storytime at the Lucien E. Blackwell public library on 52nd Street, and the bushy-haired toddler named Rio isn’t just here to learn to read.

He’s here to join the world.

“Look at this – red!” says Jennifer Walker, the librarian, as she holds open a picture book about colors. “Just like this scarf!”

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More in this edition

Hite, District make literacy crusade a priority


Dale Mezzacappa

Important changes are starting to ripple throughout the District as a result of Superintendent William Hite’s focus on making all students proficient readers by the time they are 8 years old.

The literacy crusade is one of four key “anchor goals” of Hite’s action plan to overhaul schools and improve educational outcomes.

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No shortage of reasons why so many can't read


Paul Jablow

To figure out why some of his elementary school students struggle with reading, Daun Kauffman sometimes has learned as much in home visits as in his classroom.

Kauffman now teaches 2nd grade at Juniata Park Academy, but for more than a decade he taught in his own neighborhood in Hunting Park, where families struggle to balance so many life issues.

“Students’ challenges in Hunting Park quickly become more clear in person,” he says.

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State of the art in literacy instruction


Dale Mezzacappa

On a January morning at the Ziegler Elementary School in the Lower Northeast, art teacher Regina Feighan-Drach was dressed like a Native American shaman. For an hour and a half, two classes of 30 kindergarten students were magically transported to another era and culture.

How can this be?

It has to do with teaching kids to read.

And with local restaurateur Rob Wasserman.

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Resources to improve early literacy skills


staff at The Free Library of Philadelphia 

A big part of dealing with the problem of early literacy is knowing where to turn for helpful information. The Free Library of Philadelphia has many user-friendly resources, programs, and trainings available to parents and teachers. They have compiled this list of some of those programs, plus other literacy resources throughout the city.

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