Inside a classroom at Fort Worth’s Chapel Hill Academy, smiling first-grade students waited for U.S. Rep. Kay Granger to open her book.
“The Amazing Turkey Rescue,” said Granger, R-Fort Worth. “Why would a turkey need to be rescued?”
The first-graders smiled more. One mentioned the importance of helping friends in danger (perhaps, because Thanksgiving Day is approaching).
Chapel Hill Academy is an open-enrollment, tuition-free public charter school operated by Lena Pope. The Fort Worth-based charity is working to put attention on childhood literacy, and. Granger was invited to lead storytime to children in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade to highlight the importance of reading.
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Granger said reading and early childhood education need the attention of educators, lawmakers and communities.
Reading is something you can do all your life.
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth
“I’ve read all my life,” she said. “I don’t know how I would have been through elementary and pre-kindergarten without reading because I have a love of reading. You want to make sure that all these children have that love of reading and can read at their level, and that’s what is happening right here at this school.”
Childhood literacy is a top issue in Fort Worth. Mayor Betsy Price, Fort Worth school district Superintendent Kent Scribner and Matt Rose, executive chairman of BNSF Railway, are leading the Fort Worth literacy project, which aims to have 100 percent of the Fort Worth school district’s third-grade students reading at grade level by 2025. Only 30 percent can do so now.
Chapel Hill Academy leaders hope the community will replicate some of their program across citywide. Seventy-nine percent of the school’s third-grade students meet the standard on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, test compared with 60 percent in Fort Worth schools and 73 percent statewide.
500the number of students at Chapel Hill Academy in grades pre-kindergarten through five
Todd Landry, Lena Pope chief executive officer, said the campus engages parents in learning and connects to families through home visits. Students are taught social-emotional skills that help them cope with their feelings so they can better focus on learning.
“We can be a bright spot — more of an incubator, if you will,” Landry said. “As a small charter school, we can really try out new methods, test new things that are working and hopefully have that expanded to be adopted by other school districts and other charter schools.”
Granger said the reading issue is on everybody’s agenda in Fort Worth.
“We have to understand that a lot of children are coming from families that aren’t reading to them,” Granger said. “This school is a perfect example of where they are saying, ‘We are going to make sure it happens at preschool so they go and stay at their level and read.’ ”