Students First – Leading by Example

Everyone has heard the term “leading by example,” right? The staff over at Highlands Elementary School is not only leading by example, they’re also “reading by example” to motivate their students.

“Our staff wanted to model how nightly reading for enjoyment can also lead to personal growth, achievement, and success,” shares Principal Laura Mendicino. “There is a leader in all of us, and if we put our minds to something and truly focus on it, we will be successful.”

The goal of the staff is to inspire students to be engaged readers. And they’ve even made it a competition using the school’s Reading Counts program.

Reading Counts is an independent reading program that tracks a student’s comprehension success on books they’ve read both in and out of school. Students are encouraged to read 20 minutes each night. They take an online quiz once they have completed the book of their choice. Teachers create reports to track students’ mastery and align their successes with the school’s reward systems. Students are celebrated, earning Dog Tags during biweekly media center lesson time, and invited to quarterly celebrations based on the points they’ve earned.

As leaders, the staff at Highlands decided to model their love of reading for the students and joined Reading Counts, making it a fun, friendly staff competition. They track their points and celebrate their successes, just like the students!

So, why would the staff decide to do this? Studies have shown that students who read 20 minutes each night, starting in kindergarten, score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. Students who read nightly also increase their reading fluency.

“Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension,” shares Mendicino. “When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. With increased fluency, reading also becomes enjoyable for students. Fluent readers are also typically more successful in writing and problem-solving which supports most other core content areas in school.”

The staff at Highlands is always willing to go the extra mile, especially when it involves the success of their students. Happy reading, Highlands!

Jennifer L. Kupiec is the Specialist, Communications & Community Engagement Collier County Public Schools

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