Macomb Reads Festival to broaden county literacy campaign

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published November 4, 2019

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MACOMB COUNTY — In an effort to raise reading awareness, the Macomb Intermediate School District will host its first-ever Macomb Reads Festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, at the MISD, 44001 Garfield Road in Clinton Township.

The free festival will kick off with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and local media personality Stephen Clark. Local Michigan authors — such as Macomb County native Kelly DiPucchio — will be on hand, reading their stories and signing autographs. Attendees will enjoy art-related activities, face painting, games with prizes, and even free books to add to their personal library. Food trucks will also be on hand.

While targeted for children between preschool and early elementary, all readers are welcome to attend. High schoolers will volunteer at the event.

The MISD is presenting this event in partnership with Macomb County, the Anton Art Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Public Television, Jimmy John’s Field, All the World’s a Stage, and the United Shore Professional Baseball League.

Alesia Flye, chief academic officer at the MISD, said this event is just one aspect of a comprehensive countywide approach to increasing and improving literacy.

She called it an opportunity to launch a broader and more robust literacy campaign. It allows for teachers to engage in professional learning opportunities, while both new and veteran teachers can “strengthen their tool belts” in regard to literacy instruction.

It’s a community endeavor, she said, as literacy rates are tied to those who thrive professionally and make positive impacts on the community. She has heard from local business leaders who have stated that some employees need assistance in the area of literacy.

“Certainly, we’re stronger together when we think about this work,” Flye said. “When students are engaged in reading and have strong literacy skills starting at an early age, research shows they perform better in school. As those students become adults, having strong literacy skills can help.”

This particular event is a response to recent literacy standardized test scores, as well as state legislations in the form of “Read by Grade Three,” which takes effect in May 2020 following this year’s statewide assessment.

Flye said she hopes there is a two-pronged approach in relation to the legislation, both making sure parents are aware of it and assuring that ongoing needs of students continue to be recognized.

When it comes to standardized testing, Flye said Macomb County benchmarks are higher than the state average. As data shows upward gains, improvements are intended to remain consistent.

“When you look at some of the test scores, we know that, as a state, we’re not performing at the level we’d like to perform,” she said. “We’d like to make some gains but we have room to grow. … We want to make sure our students can excel the best that they can.”

There’s not one magic bullet, so to speak, in relation to why literacy rates dipped in recent years. Flye said there are a variety of factors, some not always easy to pinpoint.

“I think (it is about) just making sure where we could increase opportunities for early literacy for students, investing in early childhood programs,” Flye said. “The best way to improve reading is to read.”

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