Students in Chicago still have poorer literacy skills than students in almost every other part of the nation. In the '02-'03 school year, 57% of students in CPS grades 3–—approximately 88,000 children—tested below the national norms on their Iowa test of basic skills. Many students lag behind almost two full years below their grade level in reading, which significantly reduces the likelihood of their learning in other subject areas. According to research from the National Institute of Child Health and Development, "75% of children reading poorly at nine years of age (end of the 3rd grade) will continue to flounder in the adult years." In Chicago, that means nearly two of every three students is headed for educational failure.
In 1983, a program called Whirlwind was founded to provide arts-based education to children in the Chicago Public Schools. In 1997, the organization changed its mission to focus squarely on reading. This year it has changed its name to Reading In Motion, which more accurately reflects this new progression. Since inception, Reading In Motion has improved reading skills in more than 35,000 students. Independent research has shown that Reading In Motion children make nearly two and a half months progress for every month Reading In Motion is in the classroom, effectively doubling students' learning rates. For these students, learning to read has gone far beyond paper and pencil.
All of Reading In Motion's programs are based on the highly successful arts-based reading curriculum created to allow children to get out from behind their desks and use their entire bodies and minds to master reading skills. The Reading In Motion curriculum consists of 20 one-hour lesson plans tailored to grades pre-K through 6th. In the In School program, Reading In Motion artists spend twenty hours in over 400 classrooms per year, working directly with children. In the After School program, Reading In Motion artists train teachers to implement the curricula in after-school enrichment programs, usually involving students. In the Teacher Workshops, teachers attend summer workshops for up to three days, learning how to implement the Reading In Motion curriculum or one of its modules into their teaching plans.
The new Benchmarks program will be a sophisticated teacher-training program that combines hands-on training in a unique, arts-based reading curriculum with classroom observation, materials and resources. The content will be based on a framework developed by the University of Oregon researches in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education. Its carefully crafted drama, dance and music-based activities inspire children to actively participate in learning exercises. These physical activities allow children to use their whole beings as vehicles for acquiring and recalling essential information. The programs provide real skills to at-risk students to prepare for success in school and life.
Reading In Motion (Formerly Whirlwind)
Karl Androes, Executive Director
65 East Wacker Place
Chicago, IL 60601