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Florida 4th graders second in reading to Hong Kong students

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 4:32 pm | Updated: 5:38 pm, Thu Dec 13, 2012.

SARASOTA - According to a new National Center for Education study, Florida 4th graders came in a close second to Hong Kong with their reading scores.  That is above 47 other countries.  While some think the success comes from a push for increased standardized testing, local educators said all the difference was made right in the classroom.

Kim Richardson is a 4th grade teacher at Tatum Ridge Elementary School, and loves what she does.

"I guess I would say kids are my specialty," Richardson said.  "I see myself of a teacher of reading and embed that in all the subject areas I teach, which I love."

And when it comes to reading, she added that it is one of the most important things her students do every day in and out of the classroom.

"It's infused throughout our day," Richardson said.

That is why Richardson and many other teachers across the state use special teaching strategies to help students become stronger readers.

"You have to use research based strategies that have been proven affective through data and in addition to that you have to step outside the classroom and make yourself available to all types of literature that's available, and using all of that and seeing how you can use that in the classroom and make it meaningful to the kids," Richardson said.

She said she is able to do that by changing up the methods, which consist of having the students recite stories in small groups and taking reading courses on computers.

"What are we reading, what are we seeing, why do we feel this way, what was the author's emphasis for writing this.  And I think through those conversations, not just reading the text alone, but those conversations are the things that help readers grow," said Richardson.

Elementary school principal Eric Jackson said that is a crucial key to success.

"With the focus with FCAT and all the other high state standardized tests, I think there's been a tremendous focus as a state, as a district as our school in trying to meet the needs of our students and help them develop their fluency and their comprehension skills so they're college and career ready."

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