Online tool launched to improve third grade reading

November 28th, 2014

News Coverage:

Online tool launched to improve third grade reading

Posted: Thursday, November 27, 2014 11:00 pm

An interactive, online tool to improve third grade reading skills just launched in northeast Indiana. The original, online training series was developed through the Big Goal Collaborative, an initiative of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. The series will help ensure every third grade student in the region is reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Increasing third grade reading levels in northeast Indiana is one of the primary indicators for the Big Goal Collaborative, which aims to increase the percentage of northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Third grade reading plays a key role in reaching the Big Goal because children who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Why is this new tool important to businesses?

Literacy is a fundamental workforce skill. Having more students on track with their education benefits all businesses in our area. The data is compelling that one-to-one mentoring or tutoring is the best way to help a new or struggling reader; and those mentors need to know how to be the most helpful. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Big Goal Collaborative has identified the need for a LOT more mentors and tutors. Without them, it will that much harder to achieve our “Big Goal” by 2025. CVC Communications has been producing highly-interactive, highly-engaging, online learning for businesses and schools worldwide for a number of years; and we recognized this project as a way to use our skills to help develop the future workforce in our region. We volunteered for this collaboration because, as with our business clients, online learning is the best way to train lots of people across our region 24/7/365.

- Marilyn Moran Townsend, CVC Communications

“If we want to have a high quality workforce in northeast Indiana and compete on a global scale, we need to be working with students every step of the way,” said Ryan Twiss, director of the Big Goal Collaborative at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. “We can’t afford to let them fall behind. Follow the Reader is intended to offer free resources to help adults mentor our students and ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Follow the Reader is a series of five online courses that teach simple skills to people who want to help struggling readers. Each course is less than 30 minutes. The examples in the program target the mentors of second and third grade learners, though the concepts are good for any age learner. The courses are for mentors, tutors, childcare providers and parents who will sit beside a reader and use the strategies.

Reading supports are very important for those who are not succeeding well with traditional instruction in school. Individually, readers may need more practice, or they may need extra help to sound out a word, or to understand its meaning. Mentors and tutors as young as middle school all the way to our oldest citizens can be helpful as mentors and tutors. Colorful illustrations, video of real mentors and kids, roll-overs for word definitions and narration by local radio personality Jeanette Dillon also make these courses fun to do.

The online tool is intended to be an easy way to engage families and businesses in our 10-county region in coming alongside schools to assist them. Our goal for the program is to have all students in the region pass I-READ3, the state’s reading test that is taken in the third grade. We know from research that students who do not succeed in reading fluently by third grade have poor life and employment outcomes, as they fall behind more every year of school. It is our mission and in every employer’s interest, to have all children reading well.

Follow the Reader is free to anyone in northeast Indiana. Sponsors of the program are the Allen County United Way and CVC Communications. The program is based on the work of Project READS, and the tool can be accessed on Project READS website,

Follow the Reader is a project of the Big Goal Collaborative’s 3rd Grade Reading Action Team. The Action Team is composed of Dr. Jeanne Zehr, United Way of Allen County; Dr. Wylie Sirk, Sirk Educational Consulting; Brian White, Lisa Fabian and Deb Dutton, Project READS; Linda Michael, Michael Burns Consulting; Paige Krouse and Ryan Twiss, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership; Brandy Robinson and Marilyn Moran Townsend, CVC Communications.

LINDA MICHAEL, a Fort Wayne business owner, is a consultant for non-profits, government agencies, and schools. She specializes in program evaluation, proposal design, and organizational capacity development for small agencies. Linda currently acts as a consultant for the Big Goal Collaborative, focusing her efforts on the K-8 Action Team.