The Read! by 4th initiative is a city-wide effort aimed at majorly increasing the number of students in Philadelphia entering the 4th grade at reading level by 2020. At present, nearly half of all public school students in Philadelphia cannot read at grade level by fourth grade.
In February Maker Jawn participated at a Read! by 4th program designed to provide parents with resources to teach their children reading skills. The event was held at Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library and was attended by about 50 parents and children. The Maker Mentors presented information about the Maker Jawn program, then passed out dried spaghetti and marshmallows for participants to use to build letters from the alphabet. Some children wrote words, others made 3D letters, but most kids (and adults) ended up building their own designs out of the materials. Many creative sculptures and structures were created and a good time was had by all, but I left wondering, how can our maker programming actually help kids to become more literate?
Learning how to read is a very specific skill which may not be best taught through an open-ended, free-from educational approach like Maker Jawn’s. However, Maker Jawn does teach more ephemeral skills which are an important component of learning to read, and learning in general. Through trial and error kids learn new skills necessary to complete their projects. In the process they learn resilience and patience. With their newfound skills and the success of learning something new at Maker Jawn, hopefully the children of North Philadelphia will approach learning how to add, subtract, write, and read with greater confidence.