One of the great gifts of education is the opportunity to instill a love of reading in our students. In the months prior to March of 2020, Seattle Christian Elementary pulled together a team to review the current English Language Arts curriculum. At that time, the team determined a need for new curriculum in Kindergarten – 6th grades and began reviewing and evaluating samples from prominent publishers. Each curriculum was evaluated based on a rubric with criteria including alignment to standards, biblical worldview, diverse representation, assessment and usability, amongst others. Top choices were presented to the staff for feedback and input.
Kindergarten through second grades adopted Abeka Language Arts, a phonics-based curriculum focused on the foundational skills essential for emerging readers. Developed by a Christian publisher, Abeka provides students with colorful, tangible, individualized, materials that build essential skills in preparation for their intermediate years. Reading instruction in the primary grades focuses more heavily on ‘learning to read.’ As students transition to intermediate grades, they utilize those skills and instruction becomes more focused on ‘reading to learn.’
For 3rd-6th grades, American Reading Company (ARC) was selected and finally kicked off in the fall of 2021. With a slogan that states “To ensure that every student can read, write, and think,” ARC promotes a love of reading and literacy. Each teacher received a robust classroom library filled with new and classic books at a variety of reading levels. At the heart of this program is simply reading itself, offering students at least 30 minutes a day in class to read and engage in the ‘just right’ book of their choice. Students read another 30 minutes at home nightly and log their ‘steps’ for accountability and celebration at school. Each grade level engages in three Research Labs per year focusing on literature and informational reading, writing, and research. Research topics include Traditional Tales, Weather and Climate, Ecosystems, Adventure and Survival, Geology, and American Historical fiction, and more. In lieu of a textbook or workbook, students are engaged in research with a variety of leveled books on their topic and complete a final product for their Research Lab. In addition, ARC comes with small reading group ‘Toolkits’ and an online data tracking system called SchoolPace.
It has been exciting to see students grow their enthusiasm for books as we make the shift towards something that models real-world skills. Learning and implementing these amazing, individualized tools takes time as we shift our approach to reading instruction, and there is definitely more to come as we continue to focus on equipping our students to impact their world for Christ.