Tennessee Celebrates Literacy Month During March
Nearly 100 Districts Recognized as “Reading 360” Districts for Commitment to
Nashville, TN— Today, the Tennessee Department of Education announced throughout the month of March, the state is celebrating Tennessee Literacy Month, highlighting how Tennessee’s educators, families, and community partners are focusing on improving literacy experiences for early learners through strategic investments and optional, free resources. Additionally, the department is excited to announce 99 districts have been recognized as Reading 360 Districts for their commitment to teacher training, leader support networks, and focused work on early literacy.
Tennessee has prioritized academic gains for students over the past decade, and most recently in the K-12 recovery and student acceleration response to COVID-19. In January 2020, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Literacy Success Act in the extraordinary special session. This Act laid a policy foundation for literacy in state for educators, school districts, universities and communities to focus on improving literacy opportunities and ensure every student builds strong reading skills grounded in phonics.
Governor Bill Lee proclaimed March 2022 as Tennessee Literacy Month, and throughout the month, the department is highlighting how reading is for all students. We will be sharing exciting new announcements and highlighting the already incredible work happening around Reading 360, the state’s comprehensive literacy initiative. Using the hashtag #TNReadingForALL and #ReadLikeRiley, Tennesseans can engage on social media throughout the month to learn about at-home resources, engage in why they support literacy, and learn about why Riley the Reading Raccoon loves reading.
“In Tennessee, we recognize the importance of ensuring all our students are reading on grade level by third grade. Our educators, families, elected officials and communities are all committed and working incredibly hard to ensure more Tennessee students have access to positive experiences with learning to read so each student can take the love of reading and learning with them throughout their lives,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “During March Literacy Month, I hope all Tennesseans will help us celebrate by opening your books and keeping on reading!"
Throughout the month, the department will be visiting several Reading 360 Districts to see the literacy work in-action, unveil a Reading 360 banner, and celebrate the hard work and emphasis on literacy instruction in the district. During district events, the department will also be hosting family reading events with Riley the Reading Racoon, delivering decodables from the At-Home Decodable Book Series to K-2 families and Getting Reading to Read backpacks to Pre-K families.
"Chester County Schools recognize that students with strong literacy skills have the best opportunities for future success,” said Troy Kilzner, Director of Schools, Chester County Schools. “For the last several years, our educators and school leaders have invested in using high-quality instructional materials to support our literacy instruction with our students that drive their background knowledge with an emphasis on the foundational skills of reading. When students are capable of activating their background knowledge, their reading comprehension skills grow."
“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Tennessee Department of Education through the distribution of Reading 360 materials to students and families in our district,” said Kay Ward, Bristol City Schools, Family and Community Engagement. “The materials will reinforce our Reading 360 early literacy initiative by providing families with an additional resource they can use at home to engage their child in fun and exciting literacy experiences.”
Additionally, the department will also launch this summer’s Early Reading Training and Secondary Literacy Training, providing the opportunity for up to 15,000 more K-12 teachers to learn more about literacy instruction. Last summer, 10,000 educators completed the Early Reading Training, a 60-hour course in foundational literacy instruction. Districts expressed excitement about the impact of training on classroom practice.
“The Early Reading Training was the start of our teachers reconsidering their approach to foundational skills instruction,” said Richard VanHuss, Director of Schools, Elizabethton City Schools. “The training not only highlighted what we should be doing in our classrooms, but why we should be doing it and the potential impact our instruction has on our students. The training helped our teachers understand best practices deeply and know where they can access high quality instructional materials that are research-based through the Tennessee Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement. After the training this summer, every single student will have a teacher who is passionate about implementing foundational skill instruction that is meaningful, explicit, and rigorous.”
Throughout March Literacy Month, the department will share resources and strategies to support at-home literacy engagement. These resources will support families with ways to engage in S.I.M.P.L.E. Moments at home by playing, modeling, listening, and learning about sounds together. Resources and support will be shared for families with readers of all ages and abilities, birth through eighth grade. Not only will families have access to these tangible resources, but they will also be provided strategies and support needed to use them at home through videos and models.
“As we enter March Literacy Month, it is important to acknowledge our year-round advocacy to connect parents and grandparents with the large pool of resources offered by the Tennessee Department of Education,” said Ashlyn Sparks, Chief of Staff, The Memphis Lift. “Through our social media platforms, Family Literacy Nights, and counseling with parents, we promote the importance of reading and at-home strategies to support the necessary skills taught in school. We believe that great literacy instruction and a strong curriculum will usher our children into college and career success and we are excited to celebrate this work in March!”
Many students who struggle with reading display characteristics of dyslexia, which includes difficulty associating sounds with letters and letter patterns, with spelling, and with word reading abilities. Children who struggle with reading also need additional opportunities to practice these newly acquired skills so that they can become more accurate and fluent. Families play a critical role in assisting their children by engaging in similar opportunities to practice reading in the home as in the classroom. The department will release additional resources for districts and families this month to help families support their struggling readers.
"As a person with dyslexia myself and as the mother of a child with dyslexia, I know firsthand how important it is for our schools to teach literacy in a way that is proven to work for all children, including the more than 10% of Tennessee students with dyslexia. Now that Tennessee has shifted its Reading 360 focus on a sounds-first approach that systemically teaches all children how to decode words, I am so hopeful that the next generation of Tennessee children will not struggle like my daughter and I did,” said Anna Thorsen, Parent, Dyslexia Advocate, Member of Dyslexia Advisory Council. “Furthermore, I am thrilled that TISA will specifically include students with characteristics of dyslexia in its weights to help our most struggling readers access the interventions and resources they need. I urge all parents to look at the good work our Department of Education is doing around literacy, to order the free decodable books and to refer to the Department's Dyslexia Advisory Council website if your child is struggling with learning to read.”
For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact Edu.MediaInquiries@tn.gov.