There are a few special moments I remember from when I was a child. The taste of honeysuckle, the excitement of catching a lightening bug, and listening intently as adults would read me a story. I par

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) is a statewide K-12 program managed by the Alabama Department of Education.

Its goal is to significantly improve reading education and achieve 100 percent literacy among public school students.

The state-wide movement requires extensive ten day teacher instruction and professional development.

Email newsletter signup

By targeting three fronts: beginning reading instruction, expanding reading power and effective intervention, the comprehensive preparation teaches educators the importance of both phonetic and whole language approaches to teach any child to read.

Since its implementation in 1998, the ARI has garnered much support and has received national attention.

Alabama was among the first three states to qualify for federal funding under the No Child Left Behind Act and was presented the prestigious State Innovation Award at the National Forum on Education Policy in 2002.

The initiative has become a model for other states to follow.

Most recently, groups from Florida and Massachusetts have visited our schools to observe the success of our state’s reading program.

The program has grown tremendously since its 16 school implementation.

The ARI is in 481 schools across Alabama in all grade levels.

Of those, 334 schools implement the strategies in just K-3.

While the program isn’t operating fully at the system-wide level, it is having a huge impact increasing the quality of Alabama’s education system.

For example, a recent standard performance comparison showed that ARI schools were 10 percent above the norm when compared to non ARI schools.

I am pleased to report that we have recently passed the Education Budget in which the reading initiative was fully funded and that next summer, the program should be poised to integrate 200-275 new schools in K-3.

The results of the program have been phenomenal, but no one could have envisioned the effects would be so extensive or far-reaching.

Not only will it help individual students do better in school, it will also help them advance through post-secondary or higher education. Furthermore, student reading and test scores are noticeably increasing while discipline problems and referrals to special education are decreasing.

The improvement in test scores will also have a great economic impact on our state, as high quality education is a strong recruiting tool both nationally and internationally.

As your Representative, I have always supported the reading initiative.

No skill is more important to a child’s future, not just in school, but in life, than the ability to read.

Reading is the basis for all future learning.

We must make every effort to see that the ARI is put into practice in every school.

Thomas Jackson

State Representative