TDOE Concludes Tennessee Literacy Month with Statewide Celebrations
50 Events Statewide Emphasize Tennessee’s Commitment to Literacy
Nashville, TN—Throughout the month of March, proclaimed by Governor Bill Lee as Tennessee Literacy Month, the Tennessee Department of Education emphasized the state’s deep commitment to supporting students to become strong learners by completing more than 50 visits across the state to talk with school districts, communities and families about the Reading 360 initiative and free resources to help young readers.
“Thank you, Tennessee, for celebrating March Literacy Month with us and learning how to help ensure every student in our state can become a strong reader,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “When it comes to helping a student learn how to read, we all can play a role, and during Tennessee Literacy Month, we saw parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and community leaders come together and double down on our shared commitment to help all children read proficiently by third grade.”
In 2021, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Literacy Success Act in a historic special session to outline a policy framework and foundation for phonics-based literacy instruction in Tennessee. The department’s Reading360 initiative builds on this foundation by empowering school districts, teachers, families and communities to work together to achieve stronger reading proficiency in students across the state.
To kick off Tennessee Literacy Month, 99 school districts were highlighted as Reading 360 districts for their commitment to teacher training, leader support networks, and focus on early literacy. The department visited several of these districts to see the literacy work in action and unveil their Reading 360 banners.
“Reading skills are vitally important to the success of a child’s education and their future. I was honored to visit Haywood Elementary School to celebrate the Reading 360 designation with them,” said House Education Administration Committee Vice Chairman Chris Hurt. “I appreciate the hard work and commitment our teachers have to early literacy for the children of Lauderdale County and Haywood County.”
Five Reading 360 model districts— Bristol Tennessee City Schools, Jackson County Schools, Lebanon Special School District, Milan Special School District, and Williamson County Schools— were recognized throughout the month for their implementation of the Tennessee Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement over the 2020-21 school year. Their foundational skills resources are now available on Best for All Central to support foundational skills instruction across the state and country.
"We are fortunate to have all elementary schools in our district implementing Reading 360, and with the critical support of elementary principals, all kindergarten through second grade students are being served by the Tennessee Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement (TNFSCS),” said Dr. Annette Tudor, Director of Schools, Bristol City Schools. “In addition, the Early Literacy Network is enabling us to work with other districts and attend valuable training to support our implementation of the TNFSCS.”
“I was proud to attend and honor those teachers who have such a phenomenal impact on our children,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Jon Lundberg. “Their work expands and enriches many, many lives.”
Additionally, the department and the University of Tennessee System announced the launch of the Tennessee Reading Research Center, a Reading 360 initiative, to evaluate and independently analyze how the state’s over $100 million investment of optional literacy supports and grants are improving student literacy rates, increasing the use of sounds-first instruction in Pre-K-3 classrooms, increasing the use of high-quality instructional materials, and preparing future educators for literacy instruction.
"In addressing some of our grand challenges in the state, the University of Tennessee is committed to working together to support the state's goal of developing strong reading skills in all our young learner,” said Randy Boyd, UT System President. “We are honored to lead the Reading Research Center to help provide critical data and research that will drive strategy for years to come, continuously helping move our state towards life-changing outcomes."
The department continued to focus on the significance of family involvement in early literacy by encouraging families, who play an essential role in their student’s literacy development, to get involved with the S.I.M.P.L.E. Moments at-home literacy campaign during the month. The department released the “Sounds First Approach” and “Modeling Moments” Blogs, including fun activities for parents and students to help them become better readers. Additionally, the “Supporting Struggling Readers at Home” resource provides simple activities that focus on practicing with sounds and words while building fluency. During family literacy events across the state, the department distributed “Getting Ready to Read” backpacks, which include books provided by the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation and additional reading resources to strengthen the home-school literacy connection for young learners.
"Our teachers, parents and elected officials are working hard to ensure Sumner County students have access to high quality instruction materials and support. Investing in students is an investment in all our futures," said Dr. Del Phillips, Director of Schools, Sumner County Schools. "We are honored to be recognized as a Reading 360 District and appreciate the support from the Department of Education. Seeing the passion for learning is inspiring and points toward a bright future for Sumner County and the state of Tennessee.”
"In our work, our mission is to help parents realize their power to support and fight for their child in their educational journey. TDOE providing books for our event helps us support parents by putting resources directly in their hands,” said Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director, Memphis Lift. “A parent is a child’s first teacher and it’s going to take all of us working together to close these learning gaps our children are facing!"
“Just as important as investments in education, we must ensure that school is a nurturing environment where students can grow and achieve,” said House Education Instruction Subcommittee Chairman Scott Cepicky. "I was thrilled to witness firsthand how Spring Hill Elementary students are engaged and excited about learning. I’m very proud of their outstanding work.”
“Rogersville City School is proud to be recognized as a Reading 360 District. We are committed to the literacy initiative to improve the foundational reading skills of our students for them to become successful readers and writers. The RCS staff continues to challenge our students daily, and they work to rise above expectations,” said Edwin Jarnagin, Director of Schools, Rogersville City Schools. “We are thankful for the banner TDOE provided and have proudly displayed for the students and community to see. The students are excited about Riley the Reading Raccoon visiting our school.”
“It was an honor to visit with East Chester Elementary School to celebrate this important achievement. I was fortunate to be around all-stars when I was in the NBA, and the teachers and staff at East Chester are definitely all-star calibers,” said House Education K-12 Subcommittee Chairman Kirk Haston. “I appreciate their dedication to our students’ education and futures.”
Looking ahead, the department’s Reading 360 initiative will expand supports for the next phases of the work to increase reading proficiency.
“The department was honored to bring 200 backpacks, hundreds of decodable booklet packs, and Riley the Reading Racoon during Tennessee Literacy Month to emphasize the importance of developing strong literacy skills in early elementary students,” said Lisa Coons, Chief Academic Officer, Tennessee Department of Education. “As we look to the future of this work, the department will continue to invest resources for districts, teachers, families and communities to help them plug in and support their students.”
The department will continue to offer the Early Reading Training for Pre-K-5 teachers and leaders throughout the state with over 10,000 training seats available this summer. In addition, the department will expand its professional development opportunities to offer a new Secondary Literacy Training for middle school and high school teachers. Districts expressed excitement about the impact of additional training to enhance teaching practices in the classroom.
In addition, the department will launch “Ask an Expert” videos for families, additional opportunities to read with Riley the Reading Raccoon and order the At-Home Decodable Book Series, new sounds-first literacy lessons on PBS, and a series of support resources for students learning to read who have characteristics of dyslexia.
For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact Edu.MediaInquiries@tn.gov.