It’s time to read: Aspire Academy

It’s nine o’clock in the morning at Aspire Academy, a Confluence Charter School. Students are deep into reading block in classrooms all over the school.

What will you see, and learn, in our classrooms?

*   *    *   *   *   *

“What do good readers do?” asks Bernita Ross-Mitchell as she stands at the white board. Her third graders are thinking of examples to share aloud.

“Good readers read every day.”

“Good readers sound out the word.”

“Good readers study and practice reading.”

Using a black dry-erase marker, Ross-Mitchell writes their responses on the board. A short list of vocabulary words are written in red marker. The word of the day – chapter – is written in red marker. On each desk is a copy of ‘Treasures,’ a reading textbook.


Down the hall in Lita Beard’s third grade class, students have their ‘Treasures’ book laid open to page 12. The story is ‘Tina’s Try-Out Day’ by Amy Helfer. It’s about a girl who wants to make the softball team at school. Beard is guiding the conversation with questions.


Leslie LeMasters’ third grade is reading the same story. LeMasters reads a few paragraphs aloud while the class follows along.

Moments later, she says, “We are checking for understanding. What does it mean?”

“It means to make sure we know what’s happening,” explains a student.

“That’s right,” replies LeMasters. “Now, turn to your partner and use clues from the story to discuss what you’ve read.”


Tinkling sounds of piano and jazz play softly in the stillness of Braxton Stewart’s fourth grade class. Sunlight filters through the window shades, pulled down in the brightness of the day. Students are working on a dictionary word web to learn new vocabulary: assignment, consideration, allergies and accuse.

The word web has four sections: 1. Your understanding of the word 2. Non-example of the word 3. Dictionary meaning 4. Illustration of the word.

Stewart moves about the room, answering questions and looking over heads bent toward desks as pencils scribble across paper. He reminds his students that when they’re finished with the word web to “read a book.”


Next door, Anna Collier-Moore is prepping her class for a short story, ‘Case of the Muscle Maker.’ She asks her fourth graders to listen for specific words – bout, tussle, tonic and trip-hammer. The words are written in black marker on the board. She reminds them of the story’s genre. From the title, you can predict it is a mystery. She clears her throat. She reads with enthusiasm. She emphasizes the words that convey feelings that tell the story. Her students listen, amused and focused.

*   *   *   *   *   *

Reading and literacy is important to your child’s education and academic achievement. Parents, you can support your child and help improve reading skills by reading every day for at least 20 minutes for grades K-8. For grades 9-12, read every day for at least 30 minutes.

For parents of preschool age children, read together every day. Your child probably has a favorite book he wants to hear over and over. It’s okay…read the same book as often as he likes. Research suggests that repeated readings help children develop their language skills.