State Lawmakers Allocate $500K to Rock-n-Read Project

July 03, 2017 07:33 PM

A reading program that helps children learn by singing got a half million-dollar boost from state lawmakers.

The founders of the Rock-n-Read project say the ability to keep a steady beat correlates with reading achievement.


Bill Jones is spending the summer in his garage repairing refurbished computers. And for good reason. The computers will end up in schools across the state this fall helping students learn to read by singing.

Last fall, elementary students at College Prep Academy in St. Paul said they were excited to show a news crew how singing is helping them learn to read.    

Three years ago the Rock-n-Read project started with a bus-turned-mobile-computer lab that visited YMCAs during the summer.

RELATED: Rock-n-Read Project: Learning to Read Through Singing

Last year, state lawmakers gave it a boost with a $100,000 grant for software, teacher training and labs in schools.

Founders Ann Kay and Bill Jones say the program has proved such a great learning tool that the state has now allocated half a million dollars to the nonprofit over the next two years. 

"This shows promise for everyone," Kay said.

She said College Prep students who used the tool last school year saw nearly a grade-level gain.

"The principal is going to be thrilled to know they made nearly a year gain in a year's time; (the principal) said that's never happened," Kay said.

In addition to four schools this past year, Rock-n-Read will launch in at least 7 more schools this fall, helping elementary students in grades 2-5, many of whom struggle to read at grade level. 

"We all move, we all sing, it's a natural behavior," Kay said. "So we are just harnessing what children like to do, and what adults like to do." 

For Kay and Jones, the passion to help young learners requires a lot of drive.

"Our goal is to keep growing this until we can figure out how to get it to all children who are struggling," Kay said.

But both say test scores and smiles show it's working. 

"Oh my gosh, it's incredibly rewarding, it's very life affirming," Jones said.

The Rock-n-Read project is still looking for a few more schools to apply to participate in the program this fall.

The Minnesota Department of Education tracks reading, math and science proficiency through the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments each year.

The latest MCA results should be available this month.


Jessica Miles

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