- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Jan. 10

The Tallahassee Democrat on education and teaching students to read:

In today’s evolving world of education, where policymakers are keen to note that Florida’s students need to be prepared for the changing work world, much emphasis has been placed on STEM-based education, encouraging students to excel in science, technology, engineering and math.

These areas of concentration are leading our changing world, from the debate on global warming to the next developments in personal technology to breakthroughs in science and medical research.

But as important as it is for parents to push their children to excel in the sciences and technology, it is equally important for parents to spend time promoting reading. No other skill is more crucial for a child’s development in the early stages than helping that child learn to read.

Beginning Monday, schools throughout Florida will kick off programs associated with the Department of Education’s annual Celebrate Literacy Week.

A key goal of the programs planned is connecting the dots between the importance of good reading skills and being successful in the STEM-related fields.

Part of this week’s celebration includes the introduction of the comic book “Iron Man and Habit Heroes” to students in the third, fourth and fifth grades. …

Scores of volunteers will be in other schools throughout the state. The goal is to encourage reading and to promote healthy lifestyles.

While that’s one approach, it also is important that all of us get involved in helping to promote reading on an everyday basis. That can be accomplished by volunteering in our schools and libraries, or by assisting in developing a reading component in after-school programs and in community centers.

One successful program that is making a difference is the ReadingPals program created by the United Way of the Big Bend. The program is an outgrowth of the agency’s Power of the Purse Program, which provides free books to first-grade students in Leon and surrounding counties. The ReadingPals initiative targets students in the early elementary years.

Results released last fall on the program show 60 percent of the students participating improved their reading scores and 40 percent of the students in the program are on track to read on their grade level by the critical third-grade period. The program is featured in 12 local elementary schools.

Volunteer programs such as this one are critical as the state prepares to increase the standards for student achievement. A national report released in November shows that Florida students are improving in their reading and math scores, with the state’s fourth-grade students having some of the highest test scores in the country.

But teachers and classroom volunteers can’t take on all of the responsibility. Promoting the benefits of reading begins at home, with parents taking time with their children at an early age.

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