As you go to vote at the polls on Tuesday you will see students wearing a tee shirt that states, “THE MOST IMPORTANT 20 MINUTES OF THE DAY IS READING WITH YOUR CHILD”. These students, as part of a civic engaging program, will be assisting poll workers in the voting process. In addition, at the door of the polls, students in the afternoon will be holding a sign with the same message and will be giving out kindergarten and grade one books to the first 20 voters who would like a book.
This partnership on Election Day is one that I initiated with Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda, the election commission office headed by Niko Vangjeli, Assistant City Clerk, Worcester Reads, and my group Worcester: the City that Reads.
Its purpose is to alert the public about the importance of reading within the home and the community. Literacy is at the root of a person’s ability to succeed and the family is at the heart. Study after study shows that family, home and community are major drivers of a child’s education. As research points out:
- Children’s reading scores improve dramatically when their parents are involved in helping them learn to read.
- Low family income and a mother’s lack of education are the two biggest risk factors that hamper a child’s early learning and development.
- Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.
- One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.
This continuous reading awareness campaign by many organizations in our city must continue and thanks to many schools on Election Day the word will get out. The students from Worcester Technical High School under the direction of teacher Jennie Caplan, Doherty High, under the direction of teacher Carolyn Waters and Burncoat High, under the direction of Jane Dowd are volunteering through their respective National Honor Societies and they, as mentioned, will hold signs and give out books after the individuals have voted.
The student workers inside the polls all day are students in a special program that is sponsored by the City Clerk’s office and Worcester State University in partnership with the Worcester Public Schools. The program entitled, “Worcester Rising” was started in 2008 as part of a movement to engage young adults in civic responsibility. This Civic Academy now has fifty seniors and those same students in their junior year attended a program at Worcester State University during their April school vacation. They participated in a variety of workshops including disciplines in the justice system, law, higher education and media. The students were coached in coordinating a voter registration session at their schools and will be working at the Worcester polls on Election Day gaining invaluable experience in the collective process of voting.
I am thrilled that they will also be via their tee shirts, thanks to our Superintendent, getting an important message out to the voters. We all know that reading serves as the major foundational skill for all school. As a former principal I have continued to recommend the emphasis be placed on early childhood literacy from birth to age eight. These are critical years for literacy development in linking a child’s success in learning to read. Children’s author Emilie Buchward said it best, “Parents play a vital role in this undertaking for children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Parents have the power to boost children’s learning potential simply by making books an integral part of their lives.
As a community let’s all do what we can to make reading a top priority and take the time this Tuesday to thank the high school students for their community service in getting the word out about reading!
The Most Important 20 Minutes of Your Day....Read With Your Child.