AAPS districtwide decodable text purchase follows donations from Karen Thomas Memorial Fund

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education this week approved the purchase of nearly $290,000 of decodable texts and take home books for the district’s youngest readers. The texts will be used in Kindergarten through 2nd grade classrooms. These texts represent an essential step in the AAPS shift in early literacy instructional resources and practices to support the development and application of phonics learning strategies.

Some of our students have already gotten the opportunity to use decodable texts, thanks in part to grants from the Karen Thomas Memorial Fund. Former AAPS Trustee Andy Thomas noted that the majority of applications made by teachers this past year would fall into this category. “The common theme this year seems to be the use of decodable books to emphasize phonics and also to make things a lot more fun with books that are relatable to the kids, that are diverse and that they can see themselves in the books,” Thomas said.

Dicken Elementary School this year received funding for take home decodable books. Dicken’s Building Literacy Expert Lauren York said the move to a focus on phonics first in teaching reading is based on new research and science and these books align with the scope and sequence that they use to teach young readers. “We start with C-V-C words, and then we’ll learn words that have blends and diagraphs in them, and then we’ll introduce silent E,” York said. 

Lakewood Elementary received a Karen Thomas Memorial Fund grant for Decodable texts that they used in the classroom. After a small group lesson this spring, kindergarten teacher Allie Cadavieco highlighted the books can both be used to build on skills readers already have learned while they are also being introduced to new concepts. “We focused primarily in this book on our CH diagraph, which was new to my students but what was also very exciting is it included also a lot of consonant vowel consonant words which we have been practicing a lot in kindergarten this whole year,” Cadavieco said. “So, the decodable books have been able to strengthen skills that we have already learned but also introduce new skills as well.”

Four Lakewood teachers and former AAPS Trustee Andy Thomas standing in a classroom holding books acquired thanks to a grant from the Karen Thomas Memorial Fund.
Lakewood teachers and some of the decodable books purchased with the Karen Thomas Fund grant.

The Karen Thomas Fund has now provided over $100,000 of reading materials to AAPS students since its founding in 2009. The program is designed to promote literacy and a love of reading among elementary students, with a focus on projects to support minorities, the economically disadvantaged, and other at-risk student groups.

The Karen Thomas Fund received a boost this year with donations from Comerica Bank and the Wacker Chemical. Comerica Bank District Manager/Vice President Denene Smith said supporting reading is important because it applies to everything students do. “It’s our focus and passion to support the Ann Arbor Public Schools,” Smith said. “I’m a graduate of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, so as we have funding requests my objective is to bring it back to the schools and this seemed like a very worthwhile cause.”

Maria Birkett is the Manager of Community Relations and University Programs at Wacker Chemical. Birkett says reading was always a favorite part of school. “My favorite thing to do in school, and I know I had a favorite aunt who every year for birthdays and Christmases she would give me books and it was the best present I ever received, Birkett said. “I have 

such a passion for reading and I think it’s so important for our kids today to have those experiences that they can have through books.”

Thomas says donations can be made to the Karen Thomas Fund through the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

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