Tackle Reading is a book, tour and movement dedicated to improving illiteracy in America, especially among elementary aged children in inner-city schools. Over 45 contributing writers shared their tips, advice, guidance, and stories that will motivate children, support parents, and inspire teachers to love literacy at home and school. Each of the writers in the Tackle Reading lineup gave of their time and words for this powerful cause. In this firsthand piece, Kathryn Starke explains how it all began and what inspired the initiative.

It was the second day of school, and my classroom of second graders stared blankly at their reading textbooks. I realized our classroom materials would be useless. After four years of teaching in an urban elementary school, it did not take me long to assess my students and their reading level. My students were on a Pre-K and kindergarten reading level, and it was time to improvise.That night, I spent hours creating stories, songs, and lessons about photosynthesis, scientific investigation, citizenship, and ancient Egypt. If these children were going to learn their second-grade objectives, I would have to teach them on a kindergarten level.

This classroom was living proof of the illiteracy crisis in America.

That year, I taught an outspoken boy named Christopher. At seven years old, he knew how to read three words – one of them being his name.  Using my revised lessons, Christopher started to develop an interest in both school and reading, because he was finally able to comprehend the subject matter. At parent teacher conferences, his mother told me a sweet story. She said Christopher had been skipping out on outdoor play with his neighbors, preferring to read at home than play ball with his buddies. When his friends questioned his absence, Christopher boldly told his friends,

“I go to a school now where they teach you to read.”

That story validated my efforts. It proved that I was reaching my second graders. However, there were 300 other students in my school that were meeting similar struggles. So, the following year, I became the reading specialist for the school. There are children, families, teachers, and schools across the country that need support.

Our country has 60% of nine-year-olds who read below grade level, and 80% of nine-year-olds in low-income areas read below grade level. 61% of children in low-income areas have zero books in their homes.

Today, I am a national urban literacy consultant helping failing schools achieve full accreditation in just one school year. This fall, I kicked off Tackle Reading – a book, tour and movement developed to improve literacy rates in the US. This resource was created to motivate children, support parents and inspire teachers to love literacy at home and in school. Over forty-five contributing writers, including NFL athletes, authors, literacy leaders, celebrities, and educational organizations, provided tips, guidance, and stories to advocate for reading. Thanks to corporate sponsorship and charitable giving of businesses and individuals, thousands of copies of Tackle Reading are being donated to inner-city elementary schools nationwide.

Winston Churchill once said, “Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.”  For me, providing quality reading instruction for all children is my passion and purpose in life that I work toward improving on a daily basis. While preparing to bring the Tackle Reading book to life, I have researched individuals who are already making an impact promoting literacy in their own communities and supporting at-risk youth.I have connected with current and former NFL athletes, celebrities, and literacy leaders, who have donated their time, talent, and financial support to make a positive change in urban literacy education. Together, we can tackle reading for kids of all ages across the country.

Our Tackle Reading team of authors and athletes have come together to promote a culture of reading education across the nation. In our own unique ways, we are motivating children to love literacy through sports, specifically football. Thousands of copies of Beyond the Laces, a children’s book that promotes kindness have been donated to children in nonprofits and hospitals across the country. Michelle Staubach Grimes launched the Books 4 Every Child campaign by donating thousands of copies of her children’s book, Where is Pidge? and initiated the Pidge Promise to encourage children to read more books. On March 2, 2017 to celebrate Read Across America Day, NFL athletes and authors will visit inner-city elementary school classrooms nationwide, serving as guest readers, books in hand, to help tackle reading.

Kathryn Starke wanted to be an elementary school teacher ever since she was a little girl. She graduated from Longwood College with a BS degree in elementary education and from Longwood University with a Master’s degree in Literacy and Culture. Kathryn has a spent over a decade as a classroom teacher and a literacy specialist in Title I and inner city schools. As a national urban literacy specialist, she travels nationally helping failing schools turn into full accreditation in one school year. She is the founder/CEO of Creative Minds Publications, LLC, a global literacy educational company.

Visit www.creativemindspublications.com to learn more about how to help tackle reading in the USA. Kathryn can also be reached at: www.facebook.com/creativemindspublications, www.twitter.com/kathrynstarke, www.pinterest.com/kathrynstarke




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