In order to address what the Cheektowaga Sloan UFSD describes as a "reading problem", a new workshop has been integrated into every single kindergarten through fifth grade classroom.
The Lucy Calkin Reading Workshop was introduced last school year, thanks to a $100,000 grant from New York State. After just one year, the district is seeing improvement in students' reading ability.
"This is the first time in six years, due to this program I can say with confidence, that we didn't send any non-readers from kindergarten to first grade," Jeff Mochrie, principal of Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, said.
The workshop focuses on immersing students with books and developing a love for reading. It involves group lessons in the classroom along with individualized instruction for each student based on his or her own reading level.
Superintendent Andrea Galenski says the consistent approach between classes and grade levels is beneficial for students.
"The common language is there," she said. "Again, students are familiar. It's a comfort level for them. And we just keep building year after year after year."
"In our district we really emphasize having books in their hands and being immersed in the reading," Carolyn Segal explained. She is the principal of Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
In addition to the $100,000 grant from New York State, the district will receive an additional $75,000 from the state to expand the program and introduce a complementary writing workshop.
"I think we need to develop an entire generation of lifelong learners and that starts right here in kindergarten," Assemblywoman Monica Wallace said. She helped secure the state funding. "I feel like it is the great leveler. It creates the opportunities for students."
So far, the district says students are responding positively to the new approach.
"The one thing we hear over and over again from the children is we love to read," Jannelle Finn, the district's executive director of curriculum, accountability and professional development, said.
In addition to each school's central library, every classroom now has expansive libraries with books geared toward the particular students in those classes. The district is also introducing a reading workshop space where students and teachers will be able to find new books organized by genre and reading level.