U summit addresses child literacy issues

Bryan Keogh

The Minnesota Literacy Summit ended Tuesday after two days of conversation and debate among state educators and officials trying to find better ways to teach children to read.
“Literacy is the key to being able to participate in democracy,” said Sheila Wellstone, wife of Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn. “We must make sure that all children have a healthy start.”
Summit participants were divided according to the grade they teach. A lecturer spoke and discussions were held in each category.
Katherine Snow, a professor at the Harvard graduate school of education, spoke about her research indicating the importance of preschool as a precursor to future achievement.
“Where they are in preschool is a pretty good indicator of where they will end up,” she said. “Preschool is critical for development of language skills.”
Elfrieda Hiebert, a University of Michigan professor, lectured Tuesday morning about children’s reading abilities in kindergarten through the third grade.
Later that afternoon, Michael Pressley, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, tackled comprehension and literacy in grades four and above.
“Making sure that our young people learn to read is by far the most important issue for us to be concerned about in education,” said Steve Yussen, dean of the College of Education and Human Development.
Lecturers also discussed ways to improve literacy in students who are not native English speakers. About 60 percent of all St. Paul first graders speak English as a second language.
“We have to have all of our teachers prepared to teach in other languages,” said Rosemary Miller, a summit co-chair and coordinator of the University’s early literacy initiative.
She said the purpose of the summit was to use the University’s resources to engage the community.
“It was very successful,” Miller said. “We really did have a dialogue.”

Bryan Keogh covers professional schools and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.