CURTIS FINCH: Evart Rising Tide reading efforts

Governor Rick Snyder has deployed a program to promote economic growth in 10 separate Prosperity Regions throughout Michigan and our zone, “four,” has chosen Evart to be the focus of economic growth. The governor actually checked into northern Michigan a couple of months ago and was pleasantly surprised at the progress being made in Evart. One of most important premises missed in setting up the Prosperity Region programs, called “Rising Tide,” was the impact of education on economic development. That is where the Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District (MOISD) offered to help.

As an educational service agency for all things K-12 in Mecosta and Osceola counties, we are charged with supporting our educational systems long after the Lansing cameras have left. So what is happening in Evart through Rising Tide? There are four main ideas behind the MOISD’s participation with Rising Tide: 1) bring all economic, service, educational, religious and community groups to the participation table; 2) raise the level of importance of educational development to economics; 3) focus on a long-term, “research-based” approach versus a short-term, “flashy” approach; and 4) keep the educational contribution to the economic equation simple and focused: reading.

Educational research is pretty overwhelming and comprehensive when it comes to reading, but at the core of success in school, reading proficiency is the key; the earlier you can read, the better. Conversely, if students are behind in reading in an American school by third grade, they will get exponentially behind as time progresses without major interventions. There are reading programs that slow the gap rates through 12th grade, but breaking the time trend is difficult, expensive, and takes a “committed village.” A student on schedule graduates on time and is better prepared to be an economic contributor.

So, the Evart Public Schools, the MOISD, and the community of Evart will be launching an addition to the governor’s “Rising Tide” initiative by adding community and elementary reading programs at the beginning of school next fall. The MOISD is hiring an early literacy coordinator for Evart to do three things: 1) coordinate reading volunteers to read with students at Evart Elementary; 2) put into place Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program for children, birth to kindergarten age (monthly books sent directly to each home for $27 a year); and 3) coordinate the donation of community dollars towards K-3 “leveled” reading books in Evart businesses, schools and community meeting places. The MOISD will be hiring two additional literacy consultants this summer, supported by a state-wide literacy grant, to assist all MOISD schools with early literacy. The MOISD will coordinate reading support for adults throughout the year via different community groups.

The premise behind Rising Tide is economic development, and the city leadership will continue to work with the state on local economic issues throughout the next couple of years. All community groups will be working towards bringing reading to the forefront of everyone’s mind. The progress of the reading side of this initiative will be reported on the MOISD and/or the Evart Public School websites in the fall ... stay tuned! The reading boats will begin rising in Evart soon...

Dr. Finch can be contacted at cfinch@moisd.org and followed on Twitter at CFinchMOISD