Coeur d’Alene community rallies behind literacy effort

Educators, university researchers and community benefactors are uniting behind a $600,000 effort to improve literacy rates in Coeur d’Alene.

This spring, representatives of several community foundations and businesses awarded the grant to the University of Idaho to launch the Coeur d’Alene early reading project — Opening Books, Opening Doors.

There are several facets to the project, including providing professional development training to Coeur d’Alene School District teachers, redesigning instructional delivery and studying the results to determine which literacy strategies were most effective.

The program is an offshoot of the CDA 2030 vision project, and the goal is for all Coeur d’Alene students to leave third grade reading at grade-level benchmarks.

The most recent figures show 85 percent of Coeur d’Alene third graders are reading at grade-level, and organizers are hoping to close that gap quickly.

Kate Orozco, the school district’s director of elementary schools, said the project goes much deeper than the traditional “textbook and worksheet approach.”

“On our part, we’re working to really redesign much of the instructional delivery when it comes to reading in our classrooms to develop richly literate classrooms where kids develop a love and passion for reading,” Orozco said.

The project launched this spring and continues with a July 18 teacher leadership academy in Coeur d’Alene. Additional training and outreach efforts continue over the next three school years.

Charles Buck, associate vice president at University of Idaho-Coeur d’Alene, said the program amounts to a major communitywide effort to improve literacy.

“The key goal we have is to identify the gaps,” Buck said. “Where is it that our kids are not being reached, so we more effectively reach them and achieve that goal?”

Funding for the grant came from the Inland Northwest Community Foundation, the Numerica Credit Union, Community Focus Trust, Columbia Trust Company, Mountain West Bank and Bouten Construction Co.

The Coeur d’Alene effort arrives just as the state is focusing on literacy. Two years ago, the Legislature invested $11.25 million in a literacy campaign designed to help 36,000 struggling young readers across the state. Next year, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and the State Department of Education will pilot test a new K-3 reading test, with the goal of test-driving the new assessment before rolling it out statewide in 2018-19.

More information is available online through the Inland Northwest Community Foundation website.