UF’s College of Education was awarded $400,000 to help elementary students learn to read.

The college earned the money  from the state to update Winning Reading Boost, a program founded in the 1980s that helps third-, fourth- and fifth-graders with reading through music.

Students in the program have been found to remember more information when rap, contemporary, jazz and other types of music are used, said Shaunté Duggins, an early literacy and teacher development consultant for the Lastinger Center. The songs teach students how to say the words they will read.

The College of Education’s Lastinger Center for Learning helped pilot the program last Fall for 28 days at an elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida, Duggins said. It expanded the program to Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg in January. Duggins said the college will update the program, though they haven’t determined what will be changed.

“We would like to go to other schools and offer this program to other struggling third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students,” she said.

This 90-day program teaches students to read through music, she said.

“One of the things we know about kids is that if they don’t catch up in the early grades, then there’s little chance of them ever catching up,” said Holly Lane, an associate professor of special education.

Dianne Fix, a retired elementary school teacher, said her students in the program love the program because of the music.

“They are learning it by singing it and they don’t realize that’s what’s happening,” she said. “Then they are able to apply those skills when they are reading the words in context and spelling the words.” 

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