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Dr Katie McNamara, Superintendent for the South Bay Union School District, Addresses the Community

Dec 05, 2016 02:27AM ● By Paul Spear

In Her December Community Address, Dr Katie McNamara, Superintendent for the South Bay Union School District, Addresses the Community In a Montly Exclusive provided

Dear South Bay Community,

 Over the past month, I have visited hundreds of classrooms and I was thrilled to see teachers embracing the idea that it is important to teach children to love to read and to read for joy and personal satisfaction. I was impressed by a teacher at one of our schools who talked about, "Building a reading life!” She assigned students to go home and try out various locations in the house to read. Parents reported that they were inspired by their children reading in the garage, in their bedroom, in family areas, and deciding which best suited their reading life.

 The number of American children who say they love reading books for fun has dropped almost 10% in the last four years, according to a U.S. study, with children citing the pressure of schoolwork and other distractions. Only 51% of children said they love or like reading books for fun, 37% of children said they like reading a little, and 12% said they did not like it at all. Researchers have also found a sharp decline in reading enjoyment after the age of eight.

 Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you are right.

 What we believe has a significant impact on the trajectories of our lives. Our schools have been sharing beliefs about reading and reading instruction across the District. One shared belief is that it is important for us to model how much WE love to read. Teachers have been inspired to talk about books and authors they love and are discussing their reading lives with their students. Even if reading isn’t your favorite thing to do, discussing just one book enthusiastically will inspire a child to believe that reading is fun, interesting, and something that people do regularly.

Another shared belief is that it is important to create environments at school to inspire our students to love reading for pleasure. At one school their shared belief banner says, “We believe children should love reading! They should find reading joyful, look forward to it, and see it as a fun escape or a great way to learn about topics of interest.” Across the District, teachers are creating ways to inspire children to read, and read a lot, without using discouraging accountability structures for tracking reading volume. South Bay teachers are committed to our goal for every student to be reading at grade-level by third grade and are having collaborative conversations about how to more tightly align our actions to our shared beliefs.

Lastly, a shared belief is that children should have access to lots of books and a lot of time to read in school. It helps to have books that are somewhat matched to ability levels because children tend to like books that are in just the right challenge zone, however, what is really important is that they can’t wait to read! Last year, books were purchased and added to classrooms, which was exciting but also just a beginning. Schools were also given specific budgets to purchase more books and plans for expenditures are underway. Principals in many schools indicated they are adding to the District funding for book purchases and our teachers are sharing stories about the amazing and clever ways they are adding to their collections.

Thank you to our teachers for recognizing the importance of teaching reading in a way that will create a reading life for all of our students.  Kudos to our site leaders for placing such high value on filling our classrooms with books and giving our children the access to books that they need.  Thank you to our parents for supporting our reading initiative by being encouraging, being a reading role model yourself, and providing your children a time and place to read each and every day!



Katie McNamara, Ed.D.

District Superintendent

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