Valdosta State initiative helps improve child literacy across South Georgia

Published: Nov. 18, 2019 at 6:16 PM EST
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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News

November 18, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Valdosta State University is turning pages for a brighter future for students in Valdosta.

VSU is partnering with the Scottish Rite Foundation to increase child literacy in students across South Georgia. This fall, the VSU College of Education and Human Services tested more than 900 kindergarten students in the Valdosta City Schools and Brooks County Schools districts signs of dyslexia or difficulties reading.

The kindergarten students sat down to read with university students and future speech and language pathologists. They found that ten percent of the children screened struggled with reading, and another ten to fifteen percent were likely to struggle late on if they did not get extra help.

Associate Professor Matthew Carter said low literacy is a challenge all across the state, but recognizing it is the first step to make improvements.

"If we show that we can identify them early, then a lot of times the success rates go up an awful lot," Carter said.

Carter said helping students with literacy is about more then improving test scores.

"A lot of states, if they're building a new prison, the first thing they calculate in to their statistical analysis is the high school reading scores and the high school drop out rates," Carter said. "They just do some math and find out, we need this many spaces within our new prisons. So it's definitely a school to prison pipeline which exists, and we're hoping to combat that."

Last spring, Georgia Senate passed legislation that will require every school in the state to begin dyslexia screening in kindergarten, but not until 2024. With this partnership Valdosta State University is saying, there's no time to wait.

The university plans to expand screening to Lowndes County Schools next year. It also plans to hold professional development seminars for all kindergarten teachers this summer, to better equip them with the tools needed to set their students up for success.