Literacy in the County

Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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There’s been national concern over education during the pandemic, and tonight we take a look a reading levels with experts in Houlton. NewsSource8′s Brian Bouchard has more.

“If you compare Aroostook county nationally id like to think we were perhaps not as impacted as other parts of the country” says Melanie Blais.

Janet Murakami, literacy specialist at Houlton Elementary, Melanie Blais, curriculum director at RSU 29, and Linda Faucher, director of Cary Library and part of the Houlton Rotary Literacy Group all say education has been impacted by the pandemic, but reading levels for young children made a comeback with in-person learning.

“I think certainly at the elementary level, last year in the fall we definitely saw a little bit lower skills and things because we left early in the spring but with just being in school every day we’ve seen that pick up very quickly so by the end of the year it had balanced out”, says Murakami

They say one cause for any lapse in reading ability was that some families chose to keep children home from pre-k and kindergarten out of safety concerns, but those children have largely caught up.

“In our district we were incredibly fortunate, because there was that period of time in the spring of 2020 when we were completely remote at the end of the school year, but last school year we were able to bring students in face to face for a majority of the school year, so students were with their classroom teacher five days a week” says Blais.

But each encourages reading outside the classroom, and Faucher says the library saw good numbers for their summer reading program.

“We were purely online that summer but we still had about 68 children that participated in it...Before the pandemic we usually would average about 100 children that would finish the program” says Faucher.

The Houlton Rotary Literacy committee helps students struggling with reading, and libraries often have online resources like Cary’s Beanstalk. But all agree, the best resource is your teachers.

“Teachers have always seen gap in student achievement levels, and in any given classroom you have students above below and on grade level, so if we can move them forward from where they are and show a years worth of growth at the end of the year the hope is that by the end of the year we’ll see that gap close” says Murakami

Murakami, Blais and Faucher also say that reading can be an excellent de-stressor for your kids during the pandemic.

“You can choose adventure and dive into a book and you can explore and that just can take you so far” says Faucher.

Brian Bouchard, NewsSource8

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