A short time ago, I blogged about the launch of Oakland Reads 2020 (OR 2020), a citywide collaboration aimed at doubling the percentage of Oakland children who are reading on grade level; a key predictor of high school graduation and career success. Since then, the OR 2020 coalition has come together to act on their commitment to improving grade level reading for Oakland students.

I’m happy to share that one recent accomplishment of OR 2020 speaks volumes (pun intended) about the power of collaboration. OR 2020 has successfully raised $70,000 to purchase new leveled book sets for preschool through third grade classrooms at 26 high-need elementary schools in Oakland. The focus now is on mobilizing volunteers for Book Leveling Parties to level existing books for classroom libraries.

Why Leveled Books Are Important

Not all children in the same grade read on the same level. Having ready access to leveled books in classrooms allows children to independently select books of interest to them at their “just-right” reading level, and see improvement as they master each level and progress with their reading. In the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), books are leveled based on the Fountas & Pinnell leveling system. Teachers assess for the highest level book that a child can read with about 90 to 95 percent accuracy, and about 70 percent comprehension. The results enable the teacher to match students to books that are challenging enough for them to improve their reading ability, but not so hard that they become frustrated and want to give up. Best of all, they can actually enjoy the story since there are no overwhelming barriers to comprehension.

Leveled libraries also benefit teachers, allowing them to provide literacy instruction that is balanced among reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and tailored to the individual learning needs of the child.

We all know that school libraries and the resources of a school librarian are important; add leveled classroom libraries to the mix, and you get a powerful combination that helps build confident readers who are able to read on grade level by the end of third grade.

Volunteers Make It Happen

To date, more than 70 volunteers from different age groups, professions and backgrounds have participated in the OR 2020 Book Leveling Parties at five schools so far, leveling over 1000 books!

It’s worth noting that these leveling parties are a great opportunity for elementary-aged kids, especially those who have a school community service requirement. I recently volunteered for a book leveling party and was paired with a lively 11-year-old who had come with her mother. We enjoyed working together and would get so excited when we came across one of our favorite Amelia Bedelia books.

Additional Book Leveling Parties are planned for Oakland schools in the coming months and we need more volunteers. You get a great sense of accomplishment after just a few hours of work, and it’s gratifying to know that your efforts will help students become better readers and learners. I encourage you to come and join the party! Invite your friends, family or colleagues to come along. Please check the OR 2020 site for announcements about upcoming events.

See more at: http://krfoundation.org/volunteers-transform-classroom-libraries/#sthash.JomLKhIW.dpuf

Cross posted from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

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