Case Studies

Reading Is Fundamental | RI Visit

art + education

Dr. Judy Cheatham, Vice President of Literary Services at Reading is Fundamental (RIF), was in Rhode Island in January, leading teacher training at two Central Falls schools as part of a program to boost reading achievement of low-income students, all of it fueled by books with STEAM themes.

“Two out of every three kids living at or below the poverty line doesn’t own a book,” reflected Cheatham over lunch with RISD STEAM Club students Ryan Murphy and Jessica Kleinman and RISD Director of Government Relations Babette Alina.  “The yield is a lot of children stuck in the middle of words they don’t understand.”

Enter RIF’s new reading achievement initiative, funded in part by a $4.18 million award by the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program.  RIF staff members like Dr. Cheatham will provide STEAM-based teacher training and a 40-title STEAM-based book collection, along with related teaching materials, to targeted schools. Each library or media center will also receive a copy of the collection. Children at these schools will choose eight STEAM-themed books to keep as their own and read during the summer break.

At Veteran’s Memorial Elementary in Central Falls, Dr. Cheatham spoke with teachers about the ways in which the new STEAM reading list will help to activate schema, or background knowledge.  She held up books like Amelia to Zora and Three Hens & A Peacock, citing their vibrant artwork and creative displays of information.  “There’s math in design,” she said, “and science in mixing colors.  You can’t do math if you can’t draw.”

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