The beauty of the written word in literature contains emotion and power. Yet, the modern era of social media, electronics and digit distractions compete for reader attention. Adults and students must decide where to spend precious time and quite often books take the backseat.

The National Endowment for the Arts outlined this trend in the report Reading at Risk. According to data gathered, less than 50 percent of U.S. adults read literature. They linked this to a drop in student literacy as well with fewer books in homes and the rise in computer technology.

Washington state hopes to counteract this information with the adoption of Common Core State Standards, new assessment practices and other strategic guidelines. One point of development in the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Comprehensive Literacy Plan: Birth to grade 12 is the implementation of community support.

Minter Creek Elementary is currently engaged in a reading program that links school, student and home support to promote literacy.

“Read and Lead” kicked off on Feb. 13 with Principal Ty Robuck and fifth-grade teacher Jeff Stafki reading a book to all students at an opening assembly. Volunteers rounded out the experiences by serving hot chocolate to the student as well.

Read and Lead is a 10-week program run by the PTA. Prizes are awarded at 100 increments with the goal being 1000 minutes read. Students receive a log sheet split in two with one side to track 100 minutes of the student reading orally, and the other side for a partner reading out loud. When each side tallies 100, the student turns it into the classroom teacher. Volunteers then record the level reached and awards prizes.

Jeanine Jordan and Crystal Wedel are the event chairs for the program this year. Both are grateful for the amount of teacher support through reading to students in class but acknowledge there are some concerns.

“I think the biggest challenge is getting parents to read to their kids at home.” said Jordan, who offers the solution of having siblings read to each other or involving extended family or friends too.

Making sure everyone understands how Read and Lead operates has been problematic. The program was not offered two years ago, and last year it had some functional hiccups due to a large staff turnover at Minter Creek. Jordan said she and Wedel are keeping careful notes on what is working so that next year’s Read and Lead will be even better.

In the end, creating a literacy connection between school, student, and home is the crux of this program. Connor Wilkins, third-grade student in Mr. Henderson’s class, said “I really love the books I am reading,” which is the ultimate goal.

For information on literacy, visit k12.wa.us/Reading/wrc or reachoutandreadwa.org.

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