Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Literacy Summit
April 30, 2002

Thank you for that kind introduction, Allen. It’s an honor to be here.

I want to thank Allen Thoms and Verizon for sponsoring this literacy summit.

This is such a critical mission—whether we dedicate our time or our resources (or both) to advance reading in our communities, we need to remember that we are making a meaningful difference: That we are enriching lives, just as the thousands of young people and adults we help enrich us.

So a big thank you to all of our conference partners: To the Washington Reading Corps, our Washington State Commission on National and Community Service, the Washington Service Corps, OSPI, Washington Literacy, and Verizon. Thank you for your commitment and your service.

I also want to thank the many organizations and businesses committed to improving literacy that have partnered with the Reading Corps, and that are strengthening their commitment through collaboration.

To Allen Thoms and Verizon: I can’t say enough about your commitment to literacy and education in this state. It is popular and easy to pay lip service to supporting education – but Verizon is a company that is doing something about it.

You all may have seen the Washington Reading School of the Month banner in the lobby, and wondered what the heck that was! Well, a few months ago, Terry Bergeson and I decided that one good way to highlight the importance of reading.

And a good way to let people know that great things are really happening in our state as we make school reform a reality was to highlight schools that are making impressive gains in reading achievement, despite significant challenges such as poverty or language barriers.

We thought a web site featuring the Reading School of the Month would be a great way to do that, but we needed to partner with someone who had the expertise to make that a reality. Our first call was to John Gustafson at Verizon. And that was all it took!

They saw the merit in the idea, and jumped on board.

Since January, I’m happy to report that State Superintendent Terry Bergeson and I have highlighted a reading school of the month in Ferndale, Union Gap, Auburn and Oroville.

When Verizon called us and told us about their interest in sponsoring a statewide literacy summit, we too jumped on board.

So to Allen and all the folks at Verizon: Thank you for your support of education and literacy, and for being the kind of corporate citizen we dream of.

I’d like to take a moment to extend a very heartfelt thank you to all of you who have made the Washington Reading Corps all that it is today.

The Washington Reading Corps is one of my proudest achievements. We launched it few years ago, predicated upon a fairly basic principle of “service learning”—to connect community volunteers with young struggling readers.

But the WRC, like so many initiatives centered on an enterprising idea (and enterprising volunteers), has flourished and grown in ways we never could have imagined. It’s like that proverb that we can never accurately predict the impact of our actions.

The “ripple effect” of the Washington Reading Corps has flowed out and lifted up tens of thousands of young people and their tutors, just as it has strengthened families and those families’ connections to their communities.

Since 1998, an average of 15,000 community volunteers a year have given their time to tutor 20,000 children in the Washington Reading Corps.

The majority of these volunteers have been recruited by national service members—AmeriCorps and VISTA—to serve in schools identified as having the lowest test scores in reading, as well as schools with children from families at or below the poverty level. These dedicated tutors span across age groups and background, but share a common goal of wanting to see children succeed.

Using research-based tutoring interventions, our volunteers are helping students in Kindergarten through sixth grade make substantial gains in reading relative to their peers.

The majority of students in the Reading Corps catch up to their peers even though most started off one year behind.

In a recent program evaluation, more than 1,000 teachers commented on some of the best aspects of the Washington Reading Corps.

Highlights included the individualized, one-on-one tutoring that reinforce what teachers do in their classrooms; the increased reading and support for reading; the help of targeted populations and providing a supportive environment; and lastly—something we know is tough to quantify but is central to the future of our children—their increased enthusiasm, self-esteem, and confidence.

I’ve heard a number of real-life stories—stories that provide tangible examples of the critical work of the Reading Corps. These stories bring the power of this program alive for me. So I would like to share two of them with you.

One site supervisor offered the following testimonial:

“One of our most faithful volunteers was an unexpected resource: an 8th grade boy with extreme behavior problems, who was constantly getting kicked out of his remedial reading class. During one of these “out” periods, he was recruited as a tutor for our After School Achievers Program (an after-school reading program targeted for 1st and 2nd graders). He was pretty sure it would be “dumb” but considered this opportunity the best of his options…at least it would get him out of the office. From the moment he entered the room and was greeted by the younger kids who knew him and called him by name, he was hooked. He read to and with these kids every day. He carefully read and explained directions. He listened, smile, participated, and best of all, when I re-tested him this Spring, his scores were up!”

A site supervisor from Sunnydale Elementary offered the following: “Perhaps the most fundamental difference that I have noticed is in the attitudes of the WRC students at Sunnydale…Students who did not like to read in the beginning of the year began checking out books from the library independently. Struggling readers eventually found reading to be enjoyable, and looked forward to the tutoring or coming down to the after school program. Students who suspected that they were “low for their grade level” started to acknowledge that they were intelligent. This can be attributed to the fact that the WRC provides individual attention to those children who may “slip through the cracks.” Our volunteers hone in on what is of interest to their particular student, thereby generating more interest in reading and education in general. And though there have many other instances in which the WRC has benefited our school, I feel the most important aspect is that the children feel empowered and have taken an interest in learning.”

Now, imagine multiplying these stories by every Reading Corps Volunteer we have serving statewide! It just branches out and grows exponentially.

I’m also excited by the increase in family literacy events. Washington Reading Corps members planned and organized a range of activities designed to involve families while helping individual children improve their reading.

Examples from around our state include the “Raising Readers” Family Literacy Event in Skagit and Whatcom Counties; the “Second Cup of Coffee” in Federal Way; and “Donuts for Dads” in Yakima. I’m a vigorous booster for a “Donuts for Dads” starting up in Olympia as well!

Our first priority as a state must be to provide the best education possible to all of our children. And while education reform is leading to all kinds of improvements and innovations that are making our schools more effective, we also know that teachers cannot do it alone. No one knows that better than the people in this room.

We know that strong family involvement is a key to academic success for students. And we also know that successful schools have deep roots in their community. That’s why I announced my initiative to spur greater family and community involvement in education during my State of the State address in January.

Today, I’m delighted to announce one of the first features of that initiative—a “Summer Reading Challenge” for Washington State children. For all of the terrific work that our teachers and Reading Corps volunteers do with students during the school year so that they can be proficient and enthusiastic readers, we know that kids reading skills often backslide during the summer. The Summer Reading Challenge aims to combat that tendency. It will operate in conjunction with families, neighborhood libraries, community centers, summer camps, and literacy volunteers to provide encouragement to students to keep on reading all through the summer.

Our office is polishing up the details, and we may even recruit some Mariners to assist with the “encouragement” component! So stay tuned!

Thank You.

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