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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 2, 2006

Revved up for reading at 'Ilima

By Loren Moreno


How they did it: Teachers became reading coaches and helped students select books, track students' goals, motivate and give incentives.

Staying on track: Teachers keep track of the number of books students read and encourage them to read at home, said Katie Hughes, an 'Ilima Intermediate English teacher.

Keys to success: 'Ilima reorganized its class schedule to accommodate 45 minutes of reading time each morning.

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'Ilima Intermediate School Librarian Faye Taira has seen circulation numbers more than triple since the school started an accelerated reading program to help boost test scores.

In 2000, when their reading program went schoolwide, just 25,628 books were checked out of the school library, said Taira. Just last year, circulation reached record levels at 82,905 books, she said.

Now, "I see kids reading early in the morning. I see kids with books as they wait for their classmates and teachers," said Taira, who has been librarian at 'Ilima for 14 years. "Naturally I'm so happy and pleased to see kids enjoying reading."

'Ilima uses a national reading program in an unconventional way: Every teacher on campus, from math to physical education to science, also functions as a reading teacher and coach, said Katie Hughes, an English teacher at 'Ilima.

The program was implemented by teachers searching for something to help the school meet its goals, Hughes said.

"We had very little library usage; kids weren't reading," Hughes said. "We really had to do something to improve our students' reading skills."

In 1998, the school piloted a national reading program called Accelerated Reader that uses computer software to assess a student's reading level. The software also assigns students reading goals based on a point system. So if a student is reading at a fourth-grade level, she may be assigned 45 points as her goal; each book she reads is also assigned a specific number of points.

Each book in the library is also labeled with a reading level to assist students with choosing appropriate books, Taira said.

In each student's 45-minute homeroom class in the morning, teachers switched their attention to reading. "Teachers are responsible for helping students through the program, selecting books, making sure they're reading at their appropriate reading level and progressing throughout the year," she said.

The results were amazing, said Hughes. By the end of each year, many students had increased their reading ability, some by two or three grade levels, Hughes said. Teachers are able to measure success through tests that students take at the beginning and end of the year and through the school's test scores.

Taira said that in all her years as a librarian at 'Ilima, she has never seen this much excitement about reading,

"Now you see kids carrying books around," she said. "It's wonderful."

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.