(TDE press release) Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Education announced the state is celebrating Tennessee Literacy Month throughout the month of September, highlighting the state’s focus on early literacy through strategic investments and optional, free resources to help students boost literacy rates and help teachers improve reading comprehension for early learners.
Governor Bill Lee proclaimed September as Tennessee Literacy Month, and throughout the month, the department is highlighting how reading is for all students. We will be sharing exciting new announcements and highlighting the already incredible work happening around Reading 360, the state’s comprehensive literacy initiative.
The department is also excited to introduce Riley the Reading Raccoon, a cartoon mascot for reading to help emphasize the importance of early literacy for our youngest students. Using the hashtag #TNReadingForALL, Tennessee families can follow Riley on social media throughout the month to learn Riley’s favorite book and favorite place to read, and why Riley loves reading.
“It is so important for students to be reading on grade level by third grade, and educators love to see their littlest learners tackle and master those all-important reading skills, and take the love of reading and learning along with them throughout their education and into their lives. Despite the significant challenges we have all faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee’s educators, families, and communities are working incredibly hard to ensure more Tennessee students can have that positive experience with learning to read,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “The best possible way for us all to celebrate Tennessee Literacy Month this September is to get your books out, turn those pages, and keep on reading!”
Tennessee has prioritized academic gains for students over the past decade, and most recently in the K-12 crisis response to COVID-19. Our districts, schools, teachers, elected officials, and education stakeholders understand the importance of supporting literacy and the unique opportunity we have as a state to further outcomes for students from over $120 million in state and federal relief funding.
In January 2020, the Tennessee General Assembly held a special legislative session on education and passed the Tennessee Literacy Success Act, which laid a policy foundation for literacy in the state to ensure every student builds strong reading skills grounded in phonics, and every educator is supported with training and resources to become a strong literacy instructor.
Additionally, at the beginning of the year, the department launched Reading 360, which is providing optional grants and resources to help more Tennessee students develop strong phonics-based reading skills by supporting districts, teachers, and families.
From September 21-23, 2021, the Reading 360 Virtual Summit will highlight best practices around early literacy instruction. Specifically, the conference will feature six roundtable sessions with national literacy experts and Tennessee educators and breakout sessions to dive further into topics highlighted during the roundtable discussions, including the Reading 360 Early Reading Training that over 12,000 educators participated in this summer. Facilitators and course designers will talk about the strong experiences of teachers and what districts, school leaders and teachers can do now to extend the learning into the school year.
The summit will also feature foundational literacy skills instruction, high-quality materials implementation, family-community partnerships, and educator preparation, aligning with the department’s Best for All strategic plan. There is also a special track of sessions for districts participating in the Reading 360 Early Literacy Network, which includes 92 districts.
A wide variety of classroom and leader experts from Tennessee as well as those from around the country will be leading discussions during the Summit and talking about their own practice in literacy instruction.
“Carissa Comer is a shining star and true advocate for early literacy in Putnam County and throughout the state of Tennessee. She is a well-trained and knowledgeable instructional coach and district leader. We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Carissa’s caliber leading our vision for all children reading proficiently in school and throughout their lives,” said Corby King, Putnam County School System Director of Schools.
In addition, the summit will feature sessions on community partnerships, family literacy nights, and national leaders talking about the importance of teaching the science behind reading instruction.
Throughout the summer, community partners hosted family literacy nights, which focused on how families can get involved and help boost their child’s reading comprehension and focus on literacy at home, including utilizing the At-Home Decodable Book Series, which are available for free to order for Tennessee families of kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade children to help young learners become stronger readers.
“Hope requires that The Salvation Army extends our strengths of family stability to focus on youth literacy and learning,” said Ethan Frizzell, Nashville Area Commander, The Salvation Army. “It is not acceptable for a generation of impoverished students to suffer from pandemic learning loss for a lifetime. We are thankful to TDOE for providing the resources that make our children’s hope secure.”
The full agenda for the Reading 360 Virtual Summit is available here. Registration is available here and is on a first-come, first-served basis, with only 1,500 seats available, and over 950 registrants confirmed.