East Elementary receives Exemplary Reading Program Award

Representatives of the Alabama Literacy Association and International Literacy Association visit a dyslexia intervention class led by Blakeley Burns on March 22, 2023, at East Elementary School. (David Wiggins)

CULLMAN, Ala. – East Elementary School recently received the prestigious Exemplary Reading Program Award issued by the International Literacy Association (ILA). The intent of the Exemplary Reading Program Award is to award institutions that have implemented outstanding reading and language arts programs at all grade levels. Its purpose is to call the public’s attention to outstanding programs in schools throughout North America.

East Elementary Principal David Wiggins said the motivation for putting the school up for consideration was a year of great strides to improve students’ reading comprehension skills.

“We were coming off a year of exceptional reading data,” Wiggins explained, noting high scores from DIBELS literacy assessments as well as the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program.

Encouraged by this data, reading coach Lindsey Howard submitted an application accompanied by an essay and presentation.

News came in March that East Elementary had been selected as a finalist for the award. As part of the selection process, on March 22, five members of the Alabama Literacy Association (ALA) and ILA came to East Elementary to conduct a site visit.

“They went to classrooms, they observed literacy instruction, they talked to students. They also met with teachers and mentioned they would let us know in May… we found out mid-April that we were chosen!” smiled Wiggins, who talked about the exclusivity of the award and how East Elementary will be impacting the way other schools teach literacy skills.

“The organization only chooses one school per state,” he said. “In the fall there will be a conference where (new principal) Mrs. (Melanie) Harris and our reading coach will be presenting our best practices from our reading program!”

Wiggins said the recognition wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of everyone on the East team, including parents and families.

“The teachers, of course, the interventionists, the reading coaches, the students, and of course we can’t leave out their families,” he beamed. “When we say read 20 minutes a night, or do this literacy
homework, or come to summer reading camp… they trust us. We can’t discount or overlook the critical component of the families at home in this success.”

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