Engaging our Ecosystem to Build a Strong Literacy Foundation
A Biome (noun): is an ecosystem that includes all of the living things in a given area, interacting with each other, and with their non-living environments, all together as an ecological unit.
At The Biome School, our approach focuses on engaging every aspect of our ecosystem in order to support student learning. When a system is designed based on the needs of our students, we create a strong, enriching environment for learning. Evidence of this system’s efficacy is seen through The Biome’s holistic approach to literacy.
Mrs. Laura Cortner, Reading Specialist at The Biome, brings more than 11 years of experience in early childhood education and literacy. She emphasizes, “Literacy is the foundation for all subjects. It is core to building skills in other subjects and engaging in project-based learning. In order to best support learners, we all must be active in creating a literacy-rich environment.”
At The Biome School, we implement a balanced comprehensive literacy program that meets the individual needs of every student. Within a reading and writing workshop model, students experience whole group, small group, and individualized instruction regularly. Small group work may include guided reading groups, literature circles, or strategy groups. Teachers organize instruction so every child regularly receives direct, explicit reading instruction as his/her level.
Research shows that this explicit, individualized approach is critical. By 3 years of age, there is a 30 million-word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families. Two-thirds of kindergartners show up their first day already behind national literacy benchmarks. What is important to recognize is that children lack the opportunities to interact with rich language, it’s not just throwing words at children, but making sure they hear new concepts, things of interest to them, so their brains make those connections earlier (Sparks, 2015).
What is important about The Biome’s ecosystem approach is that it recognizes the value of community involvement in supporting literacy – we know it takes more to adequately support and meet the varied needs of learners. Additional integrations of literacy that all took place in just the last month included: parent education nights, curriculum days, parent-teacher conferences, literacy mornings, and our scholastic book fair. The parent education and curriculum days helped equip parents in promoting a literacy-rich environment and learn how to adopt reading strategies and practices at home and they encouraged parents to be positive models for reading. The scholastic book fair raised funds to allow us to purchase needed reading materials. The literacy mornings encouraged students to practice and receive direct attention and support from family and volunteers. Last, 50 students benefit from direct reading intervention, which provides them with 120 extra minutes of explicit, direct instruction every week with our reading specialist.
Not only do these multiple integrations support literacy skill development, but it also helps students to foster a positive relationship with reading. Success is not just measured in scores, but also in hearing students use positive self-identifying language. They say, “Mrs. Cortner, Mrs. Cortner, I know because as a reader, I would…” Mrs. Cortner echoed this reality, “ When they recognize themselves as readers, they become readers.”
We invite you to be apart of the literacy ecosystem at The Biome. Any level of involvement, from joining us for a literacy morning or helping to fund classroom libraries, your support strengths our ecosystem and contributes to students building a strong foundation of literacy – a skillset that will serve them their entire lives.
To contribute to The Biome ecosystem, consider taking part in one of the following activities today:
- If you are interested in supporting the literacy program or making a donation to support student learning, please go to: https://thebiomeschool.org/support/
- If you would like to engage directly with our learners, sign up to volunteer at our upcoming Literacy Morning on December 1st using our online form.