Columbus Library’s No. 1 Project: Third Grade Reading Preparedness

Listen to the Story

Hilltop librarian Linda Vanvickle guides a third grader through a reading passage(Photo: Sam Hendren)
Hilltop librarian Linda Vanvickle guides a third grader through a reading passage(Photo: Sam Hendren)

Many Central Ohio 3rd Graders are at risk of repeating, if they cannot pass the state’s new reading test. About a third of Columbus City School students might not meet the requirements of the so called Third Grade Reading Guarantee. So the Columbus Metropolitan Library is going all out to help.

A few minutes before 4 p.m. on a Thursday and children gather inside the Hilltop library. They’re here to take part in the Reading Buddies program. Each child selects a book to read aloud to a library staffer or a volunteer.

“So this is our Reading Buddies cart where we have books in both fiction and non-fiction that would be very appropriate for third graders to be reading,” said Kathy Shahbodaghi, director of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Reading Buddies program. “We’ve got about 50 books for the kids to select from. Chameleons. There’s The Cat In The Hat; rhyming books. Jenny B. Jones; always popular with the 3rd Grade crowd.”

Reading Buddies started here at the Hilltop branch last summer – before the first third grade Reading Assessment test in the fall. When the test results came in, Shahbodaghi said the library quickly expanded Reading Buddies to all 21 locations. She says improving third grade reading is the library’s “number one strategy.”

“Our goal is for every child to have a foundation for a successful life. And we are looking very closely at what the library can do to contribute to kindergarten readiness, third grade reading and high school graduation. And this is one of our very first initial efforts to focus and complement third grade reading.”

Learn more about the third grade reading requirement from State Impact.

The library has put many of its other initiatives and projects on hold while it focuses on improving third grade reading scores. It’s running reading programs in all ten school districts in its service area.

Nine-year-old third grader Madelyn reads to Hilltop librarian Linda Vanvickle. For 15 minutes, Vanvickle gently guides her through the more difficult passages.

“Very good,” Vanvickle says. “Let’s look back and review this chapter. So can you tell me what happened in the beginning of the story?”

Shahbodaghi says it’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of Reading Buddies. But she says the relational aspect is a fundamental part of learning.

“Learning happens through relationships. The power of the relationship with another human being really accelerates learning and we find that children love to read when they get to spend time when they get to build a relationship with one of our staff or a volunteer,” Shahbodaghi says.

Reading Buddies is so popular that the program will be continued indefinitely. The library continues to recruit volunteers for the hundreds of children seeking Reading Buddies assistance.

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