Legislature(2017 - 2018)CAPITOL 106
03/21/2018 08:00 AM House EDUCATION
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ALASKA READS DAY 8:03:41 AM CHAIR DRUMMOND announced that the first order of business would be SCR 5, ALASKA READS DAY. 8:04:50 AM JACOB TATUM, Staff, Senator Berta Gardner, Alaska State Legislature, stated that Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 5 is a step in addressing substandard reading proficiency in the State of Alaska. The goal of the resolution is to connect readers of all ages with a wide network of services, and with organizations and advocates with reading proficiency at the core of their mission. In order to coincide with the Read Across America movement, March 2, 2019 will be recognized as Alaska Reads Day, and it is envisioned that Alaskan communities will promote all things related to reading and literacy, he described. Research [included within the bill packet] emphasizes the critical milestones of reading proficiency prior to entering the fourth grade, and this resolution is a way to bring awareness in how to build a more robust reading culture in this state, he offered. The passage of this resolution would result in the first recognized Alaska Reads Day, and it is important to emphasize that this resolution does not require more funding because there are organizations tirelessly working to spread the gift of literacy. It is the hope that Alaska Reads Day will be another reason that literacy advocates can bring attention to their efforts. For example, dyslexia affect tens of millions of Americans and it is notoriously underdiagnosed. The hope is that Alaska Reads Day can serve as an opportunity for the broader public to understand that the barriers of literacy can ultimately be overcome. After researching the issues in this resolution, it became clear that the low proficiency rates among children who are dual language learners experience 93 percent low reading proficiency rates. Given the diversity of Alaskan communities and the growth of this demographic, it is important to bring attention to the needs of dual language learners, he pointed out. Similarly, there are many programs and resources at public libraries and other community centers that already exist which provide valuable services to readers of all ages. Unfortunately, those services are underutilized simply because the public is not aware of those opportunities and Alaska Reads Day can serve as an opportunity to publishes the services and give readers a day to look forward to and circle on their calendars. Similar activities on Alaska Reads Day could include: parent-teacher association story telling events; grandparents volunteering to read at schools; children volunteering to read in senior homes and the Pioneer Homes; book giveaways; and good old fashion reading buddies, he related. The sponsor's intention, he said, is that Alaska Reads Day will inspire Alaskans to see reading not only as a critical tool that is used in the classroom, but also as great fun that can be experienced at the dinner table with family and a manner in which to explore all that this world has to offer. 8:08:23 AM SENATOR BERTA GARDNER related that she attended an Education Conference where a group of retired military generals, admirals, and such, offered a presentation and discussed how the lack of reading proficiency is a national security issue. Unfortunately, she advised, they could not assume that all of their recruits could read well enough to follow instructions and understand manuals, so these retired officers became involved in the movement to promote reading proficiency. Alaska Reads Day is fun, and she described it as easy, valuable, free, and the hope is that parents, grandparents, librarians, teachers, school volunteer advocates, and everyone, will get involved in encouraging children, and showing them all the fun in reading. 8:09:37 AM REPRESENTATIVE KOPP offered his enthusiastic support for Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 5. He noted that he does not often quote former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, who said that the inability of the nation's youth to read is our highest national security risk. Secretary Clinton basically said that there is a dumbing down of America due to the inability to read our Founding Fathers' documents, to understand the Constitution of the United States, and our National Bill of Rights. Secretary Clinton continued that the concern is not just about cursive any longer, but about having the ability to read those documents in simple print, the United States is at risk of losing our way as a people. He opined that the social reasons often discussed in this committee include: the ability to succeed; provide for yourself; stay out of jail; and hundreds of other reasons this resolution is important. This is a wonderful opportunity to partner with the private sector because many nonprofits and faith-based groups are looking for ways to help with Alaska's largest needs. He suggested that possibly after school programs could spring up to highlight this critical need for our youth to read proficiently at grade level. 8:11:08 AM CHAIR DRUMMOND noted that NorthStar Elementary School has been a Title 1 Schoo for many years. Regularly, she offered, the Rotary Club, run by Gordan Glaser, would invade the school during a school day to read to the kids. She asked why this resolution does not proclaim every March 2, as Alaska Reads Day. SENATOR BERTA GARDNER advised that she believes there is value in the legislature looking at it every year because it brings attention to the issue, and if it is simply on the books it is easier to not give it the attention it so requires. 8:12:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH pointed out that this committee has often discussed the importance of proficiency in school. He then referred to SCR 5, page 2, lines 6-8, which read as follows: WHEREAS students who are not proficient readers in the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school and to generate increased social services and incarceration costs for the state; and REPRESENTATIVE PARRISH commented that he found it interesting that being a proficient reader in the third grade is predictive for a person's overall success in life. In addition to the resolution, he asked whether there is anything else Senator Gardner would like to highlight as a potential remedy. SENATOR BERTA GARDNER answered that in her life, her parents turned off the television and read to the children which was also her remedy. She explained that when she was growing up her mother would not allow a television in the house until she was in high school. When raising her children, they kept the television out of their reach by design, and when they began school through high school, there would be no electronic entertainment Monday through Friday night. 8:14:05 AM REPRESENTATIVE TALERICO thanked Senator Gardner for bringing Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 5 forward because he has read to all of his children and grandchildren. Reading to children peaks their interest in reading and shows them that reading is important. CHAIR DRUMMOND opened public testimony on SCR 5. 8:15:24 AM ERIN MCKAY, Alaska Reading Coalition, advised that as a member of the Alaska Reading Coalition and a parent in Decoding Dyslexia Alaska, she is testifying in support of the resolution because it is important to work together until all of Alaska's children have the opportunity to learn to read. March 2 is Dr. Seuss Day, and this day enables reading and literacy organizations to have a day of unity, and reading instruction goes far to create the collaborations necessary to improve reading proficiency in Alaska. She pointed out that this resolution is an excellent tool to build consensus about the importance of reading and the importance of bringing instruction across all sectors of the state. Ms. McKay then provided an anecdote about a friend from her high school. 8:18:19 AM DAVID NEES, Alaska Policy Forum, advised that the Alaska Policy Forum is much impressed with the continuation of Dr. Seuss Day, and making it Alaska Reads Day. He suggested immortalizing March 2, as Alaska Reads Day from here on out of every year rather than in a recurring resolution. The idea behind Dr. Seuss Day, he explained, was created one time, and then teachers took it on by wearing the hats and reading to the children. He reiterated his suggestion of putting March 2, into the Alaska Calendar each year because it would allow businesses to incorporate it into their business calendars and get the chambers of commerce to recognize the day. The Alaska Policy Forum has always advocated for increased reading levels and mastery tests at the 3rd and 4th grade levels as one of the abilities a student must possess, he offered. This is a great first step because it does make it important that March 2, each year is recognized as a good day to read to a grandchild, a neighbor child, volunteer at a school, and volunteer at a hospital. 8:20:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND, after ascertaining no one wished to testify, closed public testimony on SCR 5. 8:20:08 AM The committee took a brief at ease. 8:20:25 AM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH moved to report SCR 5, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, SCR 5am moved from the House Education Standing Committee.