Hill RAP and A+ Training for Read to Achieve – Preparing Davie Educators to Help Students Discover their Strengths and Improve Literacy Skills!

By Jeanna B. White

The teachers became the students as 28 Davie County educators explored using the arts to teach reading, a skill that is fundamental for success in school as well as in life.

This A+ Schools training was in preparation for Davie’s summer Read to Achieve Camp which is designed to help third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The camp also includes first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer. This intensive four-week camp began on Monday, June 25th.

The A+Schools of North Carolina Program combines interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know.

Read to Achieve Camp – an Awesome Experience!
This is the fifth year Davie County’s highly successful Read to Achieve Camp, partially funded by the Mebane Foundation, will employ this holistic approach to reading. The camp’s attendees will actively learn through visual arts, drama, music, and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center reading sessions and small group literacy circles.

Children learn by example, so the camp’s teachers participated in seminars on storytelling using visual arts, creative movement, and songwriting, all in preparation to use the arts to promote growth in the children’s reading and comprehension ability.

Specific activities completed by the teachers included acting out the story of Henny Penny, the chicken who thought the sky was falling; analyzing a Norman Rockwell picture and explaining what was happening in the picture; and creating a personal Van Gogh of themselves. Teachers also compared and contrasted different versions of The Three Little Pigs using map concepts and performed impromptu skits associated with “Race Across North Carolina,” the theme for 3rd graders attending the camp.

“Our Read to Achieve camp is based on the A+ philosophy, so it is good for the staff, particularly the new teachers, to understand what that means and where it came from,” said Jeremy Brooks, camp director. “Every year the training is different, so no matter how many times you have attended, there is always something new that can be taken from it.”

Christy Cornatzer, who serves as the Read to Achieve Camp’s curriculum coordinator added to that sentiment, saying, “It was eye-opening, particularly for the new teachers coming into camp who have never had A+ training in the past. It was exciting to see them experience A+ strategies for the first time and to see veterans from the camp brainstorm with them and plan with them to incorporate new ideas.”

“The beauty of the way A+ training is set up is that you have a breakout session with your grade level and then a little bit of time to come back together with the people you will be working with to talk about how what you’ve just learned will apply to what you are teaching while it is fresh in your mind. I was able to give the A+ trainers the themes we would be using in camp and the main texts we would be using so that they were also able to tie in some of the books our campers will be reading and some of the read-aloud stories that we would be using. Now that we’ve built this relationship with A+ they were  able to make the training individualized for our camp.”

“Personally, I enjoyed the way the trainers showed us how to use movement to get students using all of the parts of their bodies to retell a story and how that can help them with comprehension. I think it’s powerful to have students up out of their desks and using alternative ways to be able to make those connections with a story. So often we have to say ‘read a story and number the paragraphs and you’ll find the answer,’ but some students don’t. They need something extra to help them connect the dots. It was exciting to see a powerful way to do that.”

I thought it was interesting to learn how we can go back into our classrooms and use the A+ training and how integrating the different components works,” said Teresa Carter who is new to the camp this year and will be teaching 3rd-grade HillRAP. “It’s not just knowing that you can use art, it’s knowing that you have to use what they have already learned through the arts to bring out the comprehension.”

Kerry Blackwelder, who has been teaching at Davie’s Read to Achieve Camp since the first year and will be teaching 3rd-grade HillRAP said, “The success of camp is watching these kids be successful in music and art and watching them blossom. The kids don’t realize that you sing in art, you read in art, and you comprehend in art. You sing and do phrasing, and they don’t realize they are actually reading. They come back to us with so much more confidence.”

“We could see more from our kids if we could do more of this in the regular school setting,” she added.

“If we weren’t so pressured for time,” chimed in Carter.

“Some kids are art smart, or music smart, or book smart, and we don’t get to explore enough of that during a traditional school day,” Blackwelder said. “During camp, we get to see it all come together, and kids really come out of their shells.”

“I get excited for the kids who are coming because this environment helps build their confidence so much and they blossom! They discover how smart they are and what they can accomplish.”

Leigh Anne Davis, literacy teacher, added, “There is just an excitement here, like a new school year with new kids and a new curriculum, and it’s just the teaching, no paperwork.This is why I got into teaching, to work with the kids and to see the growth they can make. Here they are free to take chances and to say things they probably wouldn’t say in a larger setting. Their confidence grows, and we are able to make learning fun.”

The Davie County educators who will be teaching at this year’s Read to Achieve camp include:

  • Jeremy Brooks – Camp Director (North Davie)
  • Christy Cornatzer – Curriculum Coordinator (Cornatzer)
  • Suzie Alonso – Hill Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Kerry Blackwelder – Hill Teacher (Cooleemee)
  • Kim Brooks – Literacy Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Debbie Brown – Teacher Assistant (Mocksville)
  • Mary Lynn Bullins – Literacy Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Teresa Carter – Hill Teacher (Cooleemee)
  • Amy Chappell – Art Teacher (Mocksville/Cornatzer)
  • Kilby Church – Literacy Teacher (Pinebrook)
  • Molly Connell – Literacy Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Lori Culler – Literacy Teacher (South Davie)
  • Leigh Anne Davis – Literacy Teacher (Pinebrook)
  • Shannon Eggleston – Literacy Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Michael Errickson – Music Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Angelina Etter – Hill Teacher (Mocksville)
  • LaToyia Grant – Hill Teacher (Cooleemee)
  • Suzie Hecht – Hill Teacher (Mocksville)
  • Amanda Juhasz – Art Teacher (WRD/Shady Grove)
  • Jennie Kimel – Literacy Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Esther LaRoque – Art Assistant (Central Davie)
  • Mindy Ledbetter – Art Teacher (Davie High)
  • Rachel Morse – Teacher Assistant (Cornatzer)
  • Brenda Mosko – Music Teacher (South Davie/William Ellis)
  • Erin Penley – Music Teacher (Pinebrook)
  • Alma Rosas – Hill Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Amy Spade – Literacy Teacher (County)
  • Katy Wogatzke – Behavior Support Assistant (Cornatzer)

Extraordinary Results in Davie County Inspires Mebane Charitable Foundation to Contribute Additional Funding

As a result of last summer’s phenomenal results, the Mebane Charitable Foundation, located in Mocksville, NC, has approved a grant of up to $99,845 to support Davie County’s 2018 Read to Achieve summer camp for third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade.

During the summer of 2017, over 24% of the county’s non-proficient students reached the required reading achievement score to move on to fourth grade, while other campers received extra assistance during the school year with another 11% of those students passing the Read to Achieve test in the months following camp.

“While a 24% success rate may not seem extraordinary to people not close to education, and more specifically the Read to Achieve program, that rate is better than those being reported by many of the school systems in North Carolina,” said Larry Colbourne, president, Mebane Charitable Foundation. “After seeing firsthand the quality of delivery and instruction at the Read to Achieve summer camp held in Davie County Schools in 2017, partnering with DCS again in 2018 was an easy decision for my board.”

This is the fifth year the Foundation, located in Mocksville, NC, will partner with Davie County Schools to fund the intensive four-week camp, which also includes first and second graders who would benefit from additional support. Based on the state’s funding allotment, Davie County Schools anticipates serving 77 third graders and 60 first and second graders.  

This grant is in addition to a $2.5 million grant given by the Foundation in support of  DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed), a five-year early literacy initiative aimed at improving kindergarten readiness from 70 percent to 90 percent and to increase reading proficiency in third grade from 60 percent to 80 percent by 2022.

“Ultimately it’s our goal to have the number of children being asked to attend the Read to Achieve camp to go down,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “If the DavieLEADS partnership is producing the results we hope for, then naturally students needing the extra help come summertime will be less. At this point we are just a year into DavieLEADS, so we didn’t anticipate a drastic decrease in numbers, as a result, we are more than glad to step up at this level again in 2018 to support our developing readers.”

Jennifer Lynde, director of curriculum & instruction for Davie County Schools, attributes the continuing success of Davie County’s Read to Achieve summer camp to quality instruction by highly accomplished teachers, small student teacher ratios, and the integration of the arts with literacy instruction to provide engaging, hands-on lessons.  “Implementation of both the Hill Center Reading Achievement Program (Hill RAP) and A+ Schools during camp are extremely beneficial in enhancing reading skills and building confidence in emerging readers.“   

“Thanks to the continued investment by the Mebane Foundation through both DavieLEADS and the Davie County Read to Achieve summer camp, these two initiatives together are building a strong literacy foundation in early grades, Lynde said.”  

ApSeed and Mebane Foundation Join Forces to Provide 1,000 Mobile Touchscreen Tablet e-Readers FREE to Qualifying Davie County Preschool Children

By Jeanna B. White
The Mebane Foundation and ApSeed Early Childhood Education have joined forces to increase literacy scores among at-risk children in Davie County by providing a free e-Reader preloaded with applications designed to improve literacy and strengthen vocabulary.

Thanks to a $105,000 grant from the Foundation, based in Mocksville, NC, 1,000 custom-built tablets, called Seedlings, will be distributed free of charge to children 0-4 whose families are enrolled in the WIC program through the Davie County Department of Public Health or Parents as Teachers through Smart Start of Davie County.

ApSeed – Closing the Opportunity Gap in Early Literacy
Studies indicate that economically-disadvantaged children hear 30 million fewer words by the age of five than their more affluent peers and that there is a direct link between children’s academic performance in third grade and the number of words spoken in their home from birth to age three.

ApSeed, a non-profit organization based in Rowan County, hopes to close that word gap and better prepare these children for school through a series of colorful, interactive apps designed to engage children from 0 to 4. These apps were vetted and approved to promote kindergarten readiness by Rowan County Schools. From music that will soothe a newborn to games that teach simple spelling and math, the tablet’s carefully selected apps meet the needs of children from birth to kindergarten. Children can complete the activities with the help of a caregiver or independently. The tablet does not have an internet connection so that the activities can be enjoyed anywhere.

ApSeed is the brainchildren of Salisbury businessman, Greg Alcorn, founder of Global Contact Services, who also serves on the N.C. Board of Education.

“The State Board of Education focuses on graduation rates,” Alcorn said. “Back in 2015, we were looking for a way to help increase that rate. My wife, Missie, and I read the Thirty Million Word Gap research and said ‘that’s where and who we can help!  At the very, very beginning of learning.’  If ALL four-year-old children enter kindergarten with enough language, our community will benefit.”

“ApSeed is striving to make a generational change.  We have short, mid and long-range goals. Increase kindergarten readiness scores, then significantly increase the 3rd-grade reading scores and ultimately spur economic growth.  Everyone wants to live in a community with great schools and great students make schools great.”

ApSeed and Mebane Foundation Partnership a Home Run
ApSeed’s goals align well with the goals of DavieLEADS, a  five-year early literacy initiative supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation. The initiative seeks to improve kindergarten readiness from 70 percent to 90 percent and to increase reading proficiency in third grade from 66 percent to 80 percent by 2022.

“By partnering with our friends at the Davie Health Department and Smart Start, we’ll be able to distribute this interactive learning tool at a relatively low cost to the Mebane Foundation,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. “In the coming 12-18 months, I’d anticipate that 1,000 or more of the Seedlings will be placed in the hands of young children here in Davie County. We’re always on the lookout for best practices and resources to support our youngest of readers, with this partnership and with the Seedling I believe we’ve hit a home run!”

The Department of Health will be distributing the Seedlings during regularly scheduled nutrition and pediatrician appointments with Mandi Irwin, WIC director, and Dr. Stephanie Pirkle, who have been trained by ApSeed to distribute the tablets.

“We know that children whose parents read to them in the preschool years enter kindergarten with better literacy skills than those whose parents do not,” said Dr. Pirkle. “Exposure to printed material is beneficial, but so is exposure to games and songs which can help kids with grammar, pronunciation, and rhyming. The Seedlings do all of this, as well as introduce these children to aspects of technology (like apps and swiping) that are so prevalent today but that they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to learn.”

“As Dr. Seuss so eloquently states in I Can Read with My Eyes Shut, a book that I read to my three-year-old, ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’”

Irwin said, “We are excited to promote literacy and school readiness in our community with this partnership.”

Hands-On With ApSeed Readers
She is enthusiastic about the Seedling’s potential, particularly after watching Jared Chegue (3) and his brother Obed (2) play with the tablets. The boys are the sons of Maria Chegue, a processing assistant and interpreter for the health department.

Chegue agreed, saying that although the boys had only had their Seedlings for a couple of days, they had enjoyed playing with them. She has already observed that different apps appeal to each child based on their age. “Jared likes the puzzles and the doctor game and Obed likes the coloring game.”

“We speak Spanish at home, so this will really help Jared prepare for kindergarten, particularly the app that sounds out letters,” she added. “It is also nice for me as a parent that the tablets don’t have internet access so that I don’t have to worry about them playing with it and ending up on a website they shouldn’t go to.”

Jared’s older sister, Grecia, has noticed that he is speaking more English and pronouncing words in English better. “He now knows his colors in both Spanish and English.”

Chegue has distributed several of the first tablets and said the response of children and parents has been positive. She noted that the mother of a child with developmental delays was particularly thrilled because the child immediately engaged with the sounds and colors providing her with another teaching tool.

Gena Taylor, executive director of Smart Start of Davie County, believes the Seedling will allow children not otherwise engaged in age and developmentally appropriate technology to be afforded the opportunity to have this experience. Parent Educators will work with the families to build upon the skills learned through the technology to prepare children for kindergarten.

How to Get an ApSeed e-reader
Smart Start will distribute the Seedlings to families engaged in the Parents as Teachers home visiting program.

The ApSeed model includes three years of measuring results and maintaining the Seedlings. To receive a Seedling, parents must provide their email address and agree to complete a short, five-question survey which is emailed every 90 days. Questions include 1. How are you using the Seedling? 2. How much per day? What is your child’s favorite app? 4. What is your child learning? 5. What is the Seedling doing for you as a parent?

According to Alcorn, the research from the 1600 Seedlings distributed in Rowan County since 2016 shows “active use of the Seedlings, interest in specific applications by age, and high satisfaction from users.”

Alcorn is enthusiastic about the opportunity to begin distributing Seedlings to children in Davie County. “Over the next three years, you will see a lot of Seedlings in Davie County.  Many thanks to the Mebane Foundation and Davie County early childhood professionals.

ApSeed Early Childhood Education is privately funded through foundations and donations. For more information about ApSeed visit apseed.org or call (980) 643-0451.

The Mebane Charitable Foundation supports collaborations and partnerships among educational professionals (public and private), business leaders, elected officials, and the community at large. The Foundation focuses resources on ensuring that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential in school, career, and in life.