Mississippi To Use “Literacy Coaches” To Improve Reading

(Hernando, MS) First grade readers at Hernando Elementary school do not sound like your typical first graders.

”Chapter one. The enemy is near. Enemy ships are coming,” read the little girl in pigtails.

While some Mississippi students consider reading a battle, it is not that way in DeSoto County, which invested in literacy coaches and better methods nearly a decade ago.

”It’s more reading and finding texts that meet the student’s needs and at their levels. We teach the whole group and teachers spend a lot of time in guided reading, working with small groups of students at their level,” explained Dee Thompson with DeSoto County Schools.

Now, the same program that’s been so successful in DeSoto County is going statewide.

While most school districts start reading assessment in third grade, DeSoto County starts testing in Kindergarten and keeps tabs on student progress all the way to graduation.

Lawmakers gave Mississippi’s Department of Education $15 million to hire 45 literacy coaches across the state in the hopes of getting results similar to the ones in this classroom.

”We want our students to feel successful and with that ‘I can do it,’ so they’re motivated to keep reading,” Thompson said.

The coaches will target mainly low-performing schools, with the goal of having all students read to state standards by third grade.

The University of Mississippi will oversee the literacy coaches program.

”Providing students time, text and support will definitely do wonders across the state,” said Thompson.

Just like it is done here.

”There’ll be dozens of soldiers on those ships, said Phillip,” the little girl read.

So those dozens of new literacy coaches will soldier on to win the war against illiteracy.