Tuesday, September 2, 2003

PeachStar Makes Literacy a Priority

September is Literacy Month in the state of Georgia, and in celebration of that, we wanted to dedicate space in this issue of Pipeline to discussing the importance of literacy in the lives of not just students, but of all Georgians. The passage of the Reading Excellence Act in 1998 marked an important shift in our nation's thinking about the value of literacy and literacy programs. The Reading Excellence Act provides grants to help educational institutions in their endeavors to:

* Teach every child to read by the end of third grade
* Provide children in early childhood with the readiness skills and support they need to learn to read once they enter school
* Expand the number of high quality family literacy programs
* Provide early intervention to children who are at risk of being identified for special education inappropriately
* Base instruction, including tutoring, on scientifically-based reading research

The funds provided through the act were to be used to accomplish the above goals through 1) improving educator professional development in the area of reading, 2) carrying out family literacy services, and 3) providing early literacy intervention for children experiencing difficulties.

In 2001, PeachStar partnered with the Georgia Department of Education to address this first task: improving educator professional development in the area of reading. Together we created The Reading Excellence Act Best Practices Institute, a ten-episode professional development series, models best practices in comprehensive reading instruction according to the tenets of the Reading Excellence Act. The programs focus on the six essential dimensions of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, explicit systematic phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and motivation.

PeachStar and Georgia Public Broadcasting have consistently addressed the second task, family literacy services, through our years of participation in PBS: Ready To Learn program as well as our adult education endeavors. Family literacy, as defined by the Reading Excellence Act, includes parent and child interactive activities, early childhood education, adult training, and parent education. Through Ready To Learn, PeachStar provides trainings to parents and caregivers and a complete day-time program schedule of educational children's programming. PeachStar reaches adult learners through both GPTV Overnight and trainings across the state that focus on programs such as GED Connection and Workplace Essential Skills, which address key issues for adult learners. GPTV Overnight also provides parents with a wealth of information regarding childcare, with a special focus on helping children learn to read.

PeachStar's Ready To Learn involvement also addresses the need to provide early intervention for children with reading difficulties. Programming such as Between the Lions assist young readers with the development of phonemic awareness as well as vocabulary and comprehension. Through the First Book program, PeachStar distributes books to children who otherwise could not afford them, thereby giving them access to the instructional materials they need to develop their reading skills. PeachStar regularly conducts trainings at Head Start facilities across the state, working with employees to develop sound strategies for literacy instruction.

As you can see, even while we give literacy special recognition during the month of September, it is a year-round priority for PeachStar. We work closely with parents and educators statewide to ensure that Georgia's youngest citizens have access to the knowledge and support they need to become good readers and successful students. Look for Reading Excellence Act Best Practices Institute to air throughout the month of September on Channel 410 and visit the PeachStar website regularly to learn more about our Ready To Learn initiatives.