In a school with students usually dressed in uniforms of khaki or blue pants and collard shirts, it was a special sight to see kindergartners at East Wake Academy dressed as princesses, magicians, umbrellas and puppies.
It was one way the school welcomed Lyn Wendon, the creator of Letterland, a reading program that is over 50 years old and which the school adopted a year ago to help with students’ reading skills.
“The reason to have Letterland is to have a systematic program in place to help children,” said Jennifer Hinton, a 1st-grade teacher and East Wake Academy’s Letterland coach.
Letterland is a program that uses characters to teach students about letters, their sounds and vowels. Each character has a story and they all interact in Letterland. In addition to visuals, the program includes songs and dances to help students learn to read and spell.
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The program is used in 111 countries, but in the past five or six years has gained popularity in the United States. According to Tom Wendon, Letterland’s director of marketing and the grandson of founder Lyn Wendon, Letterland introduced a United States-specific program that better fit the country’s needs.
Called the Letterland Step-by-Step approach, it “conforms to what’s needed in the U.S.,” Tom Wendon said.
He noted the program correlates with Common Core standards and was adjusted to better fit American English, which was criitcal because the Wendons are from the United Kingdom.
It also includes instructional materials for students with limited English proficiency.
Teachers at the charter school voted to implement the program around the same time Wake County Public Schools adopted the curriculum. Since East Wake Academy is a charter school, it can choose it’s own curriculum independent of Wake County.
Hinton said East Wake Academy hopes it will help address the steep reading gap among students in the school.
According to school report cards published by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, East Wake Academy performs above the state average in reading.
Even so, East Wake Academy’s reading interventionist Carrol Johnson said teachers are already seeing improvements among kindergartners, 1st- and 2nd-graders, who use the program.
“(It’s helped) struggling learners,” she said. “It helps with decoding skills and (students) are engaged and they enjoy the stories.”
Lyn Wendon and her team also visited Pullen Park in Raleigh on Saturday for Letterland Adventure Day, which had Letterland characters on hand.