The American Initiative on Reading and Writing
Read*Write*Now, a national initiative of the U.S. Department of Education, has a single goal: to improve reading and writing achievement among elementary and high school students. Its strategic plan is to build supportive environments for reading and writing that touch upon all facets of children's lives, mobilizing parents, community members, older teenagers, businesses, media, and technology to support and extend the work of the schools. Working in partnership with corporations, professional, social, religious, and educational organizations, and local, state, and national agencies, Read*Write*Now is both encouraging and supporting existing programs and initiating new reading and writing efforts to develop these environments. The current focus of the initiative is on four specific environments: home, after-school, the computer world, and the consumer world. According to the characteristics of each environment, Read*Write*Now is bringing direct instruction, training, communication activities, and guidance and encouragements for reading and writing, all aimed toward reinforcement and extension of the school language arts programs.
For the home we have developed a pre-kindergarten booklet for children, Play on Paper, to emphasize reading and language skills, and an Activity Book for parents that outlines home activities for facilitating reading and writing. In cooperation with the Even Start and Head Start Programs, we are designing guidebooks and other materials for parents of young children to assist them in fostering language, cognitive, and prereading development. Future development will include activities to facilitate vocabulary development and maintenance in the home, particularly over the summer months. Our goal is not only to encourage parents to read to their children but also to model for them the questioning techniques and other interactive processes that facilitate language and cognitive growth and school readiness
For after school we have developed a tutoring program that incorporates guided reading practice as well as activities for fostering basic reading and writing skills. Adults, high school students, retirees, and others are now being recruited nationwide for this program. A training videotape for preparing tutors is also being planned.
For the computer world, which is rapidly becoming a major pastime for elementary and high school students, we are developing the Alphabet Superhighway, an information-rich world of CyberCities and CyberCenters that engages and mentors students in their search for new and interesting materials on hobbies, school subjects, sports, and other topics of interest. Millions of students in the U.S. will be interconnected through the World Wide Web with each other and with students in other countries, all engaged in communicating and searching for information through structured activities. The Alphabet Highway will be available through schools, libraries, youth organizations, and homes.
For the consumer world, which includes commercial products, advertisements, and the media, we are working with various partners to incorporate reading and writing messages in product packaging, television, and video programs. One program, The Wild World of Words, will engage a variety of media to bring information about words to students: interesting etymologies, curious spellings, foreign borrowings, and more. Another activity will use popular heroes to promote interest in reading and writing.
Related activities, under sponsorship of foundations and other external funding sources, will monitor national indicators of reading and writing progress and will develop guidelines for school administrators and teachers for improving reading and writing programs. In all of these activities, Read*Write*Now will work with partners to build enduring environments that capture the major portion of students' daily lives, that build the potential of the home and community to support and extend school learning, and that use current research to guide the selection of methods and materials.