Parents can get look at proposed reading program

Wichita parents can get their first look today at a new reading program the district is considering for kindergartners and first-graders.

Read Well, a program aimed at helping youngsters develop basic reading skills, has not been approved by or presented to the Wichita school board. It is not clear how much the district plans to spend for the curriculum or how it was chosen from a myriad of programs aimed at struggling readers.

But a flier distributed to teachers last week invites families to an "open house preview" of the program today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Focht Instructional Center, 412 S. Main.

The session is "simply an opportunity for teachers and parents to see the components of the Read Well curriculum," said Denise Seguine, Wichita's chief academic officer.

Read Well is distributed by Cambium Learning Group, a Dallas-based company. The curriculum is being used in Tacoma, Wash., and a number of Florida schools.

Seguine said representatives from Cambium will be available at today's session to answer questions about the curriculum.

Wichita superintendent John Allison told The Eagle last month that the program incorporates recent research on early literacy and how children learn.

"There's no magic bullet, but I think it can move us forward," Allison said. "We have to lift the knowledge base for our teachers and put... the right materials in their hands."

Read Well, if approved, would replace the Treasures curriculum in kindergarten classes. First-grade teachers would use it as an intervention tool for students struggling to sound out letters and words.

It is unclear whether the Read Well program has been tested in Wichita classrooms. Seguine said she does not want to discuss details of the proposed curriculum until after it is presented to board members.

Before the district adopted Everyday Math, a new elementary math curriculum, in 2009, the program was tested for a year in six Wichita classrooms. A district-sponsored math fair was held after board members voted to spend about $2 million for new materials and teacher training.