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Good Reading: Eight Rural ND School Districts Win Literacy Grants

BISMARCK, N.D., Feb. 9, 2022 – State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced that eight rural school districts across North Dakota have been awarded grants of up to $500,000 each to strengthen reading programs for their students and professional development for their teachers.

Glenburn, Hatton, Hillsboro, Lakota, Mapleton, Minto, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood, and Park River will receive the North Dakota Systemwide Literacy Improvement grants over 2 ½ years, Baesler said Wednesday. The money is coming from funds set aside to help students accelerate their reading skills and make progress that may have been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baesler said the grants will finance a reading literacy audit at each school district. The audit will outline each district’s reading literacy needs and goals, gather test information and teaching resources, and solicit suggestions for improvement. A curriculum review of how reading is taught will be included, along with professional development and supplies for teachers.

The grants’ objective is to boost the reading skills of students in the elementary grades – especially in the third grade, which is regarded as the bellwether of future success – and set them on a path of continuous reading improvement. If students are skilled readers in elementary school, they will reap the benefits as adults, the superintendent said.

“At the beginning, you learn to read. Then you read to learn,” Baesler said. “Students with strong reading skills can read, speak and write effectively. They are better equipped to think critically, analyze issues, and solve problems. They are more likely to earn higher wages and have a better understanding of their rights and freedoms. One of the most important things our schools can do is foster strong reading skills in our North Dakota students.”

Each district will measure its results and make note of its best practices, information that can be shared with other school districts to benefit the entire state, Baesler said.