Stanley and Carolyn Griggs have worked for years in a Chicago elementary school to get children to read more books and see their academic achievement soar.
Their innovation could easily be incorporated into Mayor Sly James’ Turn the Page KC and other book giveaway programs to get children in public and charter schools to crave books and read at or above grade level. The couple calls the program at Owen Scholastic Academy the Reading Millionaires Club.
In its 12th year, the program gets the academy’s students, teachers, staff and parents to collectively read more than a million minutes. The intent is to make the richness of reading a shared, school-centered, community activity.
“You kind of get to know the students on a different level,” said Stanley Griggs, the school principal.
At the end of the program, the top five students from each class win honors. But handouts advise: “Remember, all of our students are winners, and we want to make sure the children are working as a team, along with enjoying reading.” The couple shared the details last year at a National Association for Multicultural Education convention in Tucson, Ariz.
I hope to learn more education innovations at the 25th anniversary conference this week in New Orleans.
At Owen Scholastic Academy, the 260 students, mostly African American, in kindergarten through eighth grade keep track of their reading minutes from September through May. The events around reading include a book fair in October and a family reading night. Children who attend the family event get 100 points toward their reading grade.
In surveys to assess the Reading Millionaires Club, students reported that it improved their reading, got them to read more and they embraced reading as a privilege, said Carolyn Theard-Griggs, who is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Diversity at Concordia University Chicago. It increases students’ vocabulary and their motivation to read.
There also is a Grandparents Day, including breakfast and reading. Stanley Griggs explained that getting more family members excited about children reading helps ensure that books and reading will become a family routine.
The school celebrates reading with a balloon release and other events. Stanley Griggs said the school district funds the reading program. Its success helps ensure the financing continues.
Theard-Griggs said the academy even takes the children on a Spirit of Chicago Cruise in May, sailing on Lake Michigan to celebrate reading. Fundraisers make it possible. A Reading Extravaganza counts parents’ reading minutes.
A handout addressed to the parents says: “We are a team, and only teamwork can make a dream work…. Reading is succeeding at Owen Scholastic Academy.” The couple said students’ have scored higher on standardized achievement tests since the start of the Reading Millionaires Club.
“We want to say it’s because of this reading program,” Stanley Griggs said.
The future could include getting businesses to financially support the school’s Reading Millionaires Club. Another possibility is to have children read book reports on YouTube linked to the authors’ or publishers’ websites.
The possibilities for the program and the excitement of reading are endless. It’s a lot better than the old narrative of a poor vocabulary and an inability to read and learn among students of color with no clear way to narrow the racial achievement gap.
The Griggses have found a way to fix that. Mayor James and Kansas City area schools should channel the Chicago school’s success and replicate it here.