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Columbus City Schools Launch Program To Boost Reading Skills

'Books on the Bus' program aims to put more books in the hands of students.

Columbus City Schools is applying a number of approaches to boost students' reading skills in the wake of the state's third-grade reading guarantee.

Third-graders must be able to read, at grade level, before moving on to the next grade.

One of the newest initiatives is the “Books on the Bus” program gives students a way to pass the time on their bus rides, help them academically and, hopefully, spark a lifelong interest in reading.

Like all Columbus City School bus drivers, Jeremy Jay goes through a series of checks before he takes his bus out on the road.

Now, he adds one more thing to his list.

Jay, and all of the district's bus drivers, now grab several books and make them available for students to read on their way to and from school.

"I would say about 80 percent of my kids are engaged in reading,” said Jay.  “I have some siblings on the bus, so they enjoy reading the books to their siblings and they enjoy taking it home."

Jay says at first he would just pick up a bag of books that had already been picked out for him.  Now, he says, the kids make requests.

"Now, I've got kids who love cooking books, or kids who like picture books, and I have a preschooler who likes the little cardboard books, so now when I go back there, I try to pick out a little bit of everything and kind of mix it up for the kids so they have something they like to read.”

“Books on the Bus” is the latest effort, on behalf of the district, to encourage and support reading.

The district began the revamp of its reading instruction last fall with the creation of the "Reading Buddies" program.

That initiative brought in volunteers to work with students in two, bi-weekly, 20-minute sessions.

Later efforts also included Saturday workshops for families.

Jay says while the Third Grade Reading guarantee may have been the motivation for Books on the Bus, he says it's not what keeps the kids engaged.

He says they’re are excited about selecting books.

"I have a good time with this and I am so happy that the kids are enjoying it."

Columbus City Schools says it has other initiatives for its students.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the district is holding a Family Reading Academy for parents of third graders who are struggling with reading.

Next week the district is partnering with the City of Columbus and its Recreation and Parks Department to offer a Third Grade Spring Break Reading Blitz from Tuesday, April 15, through Thursday, April 17, 2014. The Reading Blitz will last from 1:00 - 3:00 PM each day at six Recreation Centers to help students prepare for the Third Grade Reading Assessment.

Ohio Achievement Assessments, which include the Third grade reading tests, begin April 21, 2014