Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Reading with Character

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Reading with Character

Article excerpt

Improving student access to reading involves two key components: materials for reading and time to read. Therefore, the primary purpose of Reading with Character is to provide greater access to reading for children at Ashley Park Elementary School by providing resources for improving the school library as well as the collections in individual classrooms. In addition, the project addresses character education by coordinating this effort with an existing character-education program. The school participates in a district-wide character-education program, which is most effective when woven into every aspect of the curriculum. By selecting books with characters who exemplify desirable traits, this project helps address both literacy and character education. In support of Reading with Character, Phi Kappa Phi awarded it a $2,500 Literacy Initiative Grant in 2003.


Ashley Park Elementary School is an urban school in Charlotte, North Carolina, with about 420 students in grades K through 5. The school has a balanced language-arts program that places phonics instruction within a complete reading and writing program. In 2001-02, 59 percent of the school's third graders and 64.6 percent of fifth graders were at or above grade-level reading. A disparity based on race/ethnicity indicates particular concern for African American students. One of Ashley Park's goals is that at least 95 percent of the third and fifth graders will be reading at or above grade level by 2005. Students, teachers, and administrators at Ashley Park are making considerable progress toward meeting their goals for all children.


Reading-education research shows that students' reading levels improve when they have greater access to materials that are at the appropriate reading level. This project provides high-interest fiction and nonfiction books for below-grade-level readers. The school's literacy facilitator and the Ashley Park teachers chose a variety of "Hi/Lo" books for each grade level (K through 5). As project manager, I also worked with the school librarian to select books that can be used to support the character-education program in place at the school. They chose children's books with strong characters that exemplify eight traits: respect, responsibility, caring, honesty, justice and fairness, courage, citizenship, and perseverance and hope.


By being able to take appropriate reading materials home with them, children have more opportunities to read to learn as well as to read for pleasure. During the fall of 2003, the school librarian, Ashley Park teachers, and I selected and purchased books that children can read at home with little adult input. As the books arrived at the school, Phi Kappa Phi members worked with teachers to create "take-home" packs for children at each grade level. Parents were encouraged to participate in this "read-at-home" time. The books provided opportunities at home for parents to reinforce and discuss the monthly character-education traits. Children's questions and comments about the stories that they read offered parents important insights into their children's thoughts about themselves and the world around them.


The award money from the Phi Kappa Phi Literacy Initiative grant is being used to purchase books and supplies that directly benefit the students at Ashley Park Elementary School. …

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