December 4, 2019
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Faith, family and friends are not the only things that bring a smile to Ann Haley’s face.
The former John Colemon Elementary School principal-turned-Rutherford County elementary coordinator beams with pride at the sight of young students reading or hearing the excitement in their voice when talk about a story their parents read to them the night before.
Haley has implemented several districtwide reading initiatives this school year.
And she’s used Twitter, Skype and YouTube in an effort to spread her message. Parents and educators alike are encouraged to follow her on Twitter at @AnnHaley_RCS or log onto https://www.youtube.com/user/rucoschools/videos and watch the growing video library of stories.
Haley also smiles knowing students are talking among themselves about stories they’ve read.
RCS: What are some of the initiatives you have started to promote reading?
AH: One thing I am trying to be better about this year is that I do a weekly challenge with the teachers. I’ve put some articles in there that have to do with the science of reading and making sure we’re up to date on that and doing what’s best for students. It’s a challenge, they don’t have to do that and that’s on Twitter. Another thing we’ve done is I’ve started RCS Story Chat on Twitter and I am doing one grade level a week. And another one is RCS Story Chat on Skype. Another is Switch on to Reading and the last one is RCS Storytime Readers and that’s on YouTube.
RCS: What is reason behind these new initiatives?
AH: A concern for reading overall in elementary schools. By 2025, the state has said we need to have 75 percent of our third-graders proficient, and we’re not at that.
RCS: Why do you think that is?
AH: A big thing with me is we’re so caught up in our devices — our kids are. They’ve become babysitters for us, and students are on YouTube. Parents are busy and students are in single-parent homes and the parent is working two jobs. Let’s get back to the basics is what I say. When I was in school, we brought a book home and we read a story at night. We know that studies show that it’s important for students to be read to and I’m just trying to get that information out there. One of the things I am trying to accomplish next semester is to send home an information sheet to parents that shows what it looks like when a child is on a device and has so much screen time, and how it shows up on their test scores.
RCS: So you’re casting a wide net with Twitter, Skype and YouTube in order to touch everybody, right?
AH: I sit and think all the time about how I can help kids with reading. That’s constant with me. That’s one of my priorities this year — just to focus on reading and making sure that we focus on reading. I want them to be successful. Some people just don’t like to read, but we have to read. You know what I mean? There are things we have to read at work that we might not like, but we read it. That’s part of our job. I want them to be capable of doing that when they have to do it and also when they want to do it.
RCS: You mentioned bringing a book home and reading a book a night when you were (in elementary school) and my childhood was the same way. What happened? When did lose that?
AH: I think the home changed. Moms started having to work. We want everything right now. We live in a society where we don’t have to go anywhere. We can push a button and it’s delivered to our home. We want everything instantaneously. Think about when you used to sit and watch TV and wonder how old somebody was. Well, now you don’t have to wonder about it. You have a phone in your hand, and you can know like that. As quick as you can type it in, that’s how quick you can know. I just think it goes back to devices – I’m guilty of it too – we’re on our devices checking social media, checking emails, and this, and then all of a sudden we’re just caught up in our device instead of talking to our kids or reading to our kids. Reading takes time. Reading means you have to sit down, shut off some things and be quiet for a while. As a society, we have a hard time doing that.”
PHOTO / KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT