Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Committee Approves “Bridge to Literacy” Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY (February 28, 2012) – Literacy efforts aimed at children would get a boost from legislation approved by a House committee today.
House Bill 2676, by state Rep. Jabar Shumate, would create a “Bridge to Literacy” program designed to ensure every Oklahoma child can read at grade-level by the end of the third grade. To achieve that goal, the program would train volunteers to work as tutors through community organizations and local churches.
“A child who can read at grade-level is a child who has the opportunity to thrive throughout his or her school years and, after graduation, as an adult in the workforce,” said Shumate, D-Tulsa. “This legislation could make a big difference in the lives of many Oklahoma children.”
Citizen advocates lobbied lawmakers to support the bill on the first day of session, and several appeared at today’s meeting, including Dr. Major Lewis Jemison, pastor of the St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, who worked with Shumate to develop the bill.
“This legislation provides a fantastic opportunity for community based organizations and churches to help kids learn to read, and I believe its long-term impact will be tremendous,” Jemison said. “This bill provides another important way for community citizens to do their part and aid schools and parents.”
“Our citizens and community leaders see the need to increase the support system available to young children, and this program would provide that assistance in a cost-effective way,” Shumate said. “I am very pleased this legislation has cleared its first hurdle.”
House Bill 2676 passed unanimously out of the House Common Education Committee today. It now goes to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
The proposed committee substitute to House Bill 2676 directs the Oklahoma State Board of Education to establish the Oklahoma Bridge to Literacy Program to improve reading skills of children through the fourth grade. The State Department of Education must issue a request for proposals by October 1, 2012, and each October 1 after that, seeking applications for the program. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations; community-based programs, centers, organizations or services; and churches or religious organizations. Programs must establish reading programs for children through the fourth grade and may be offered before school, after school, on Saturdays or during summer months. The programs must focus on enabling children to read at the appropriate level and provide assessments and measure of reading skills to determine success. The state board must award grants by February 1 each year. The department also must provide reading instruction training, resource materials on reading instruction and remediation and other assistance. The board must provide for independent evaluations of programs and report to the governor, speaker of the House and pro tempore of the Senate each year.

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