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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine look on as teacher Lindsey Thomas during a reading and dictation exercise with a group of kindergartners Wednesday at Washington Elementary School. (Photo by Douglas Huxley)

The governor spoke about the importance of reading at Wednesday’s event in Marietta.

Governor Mike DeWine and his wife, Fran, were at Washington Elementary observing class activities, discussing how to apply the science of reading to their lessons, and listening to the students’ experience with it.

“What Fran and I do is go around the state and listen to these teachers, those schools, that have converted to the science of reading,” DeWine said.

DeWine said his stop at Washington Elementary was his ninth visit to a school in the past three weeks. He said the teachers told him they were working as hard as they could, but were not making the progress they wanted to make with the students.

“We knew we had to do something,” DeWine said. “They did the research and discovered that reading science was really the way to go. They turned to that and saw tremendous, wonderful results.”

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First Lady Fran DeWine, Governor Mike DeWine, Raven Cromwell, assistant professor of education at Marietta College and Dottie Earp participated in a roundtable meeting after the governor toured Washington Elementary Wednesday. (Photo by Douglas Huxley)

DeWine signed an executive order on March 23 to implement the Conservative Children’s Initiative. The initiative will coordinate with interested parties to develop a program to identify schools that demonstrate strong implementation of educational best practices aligned with reading science and where students are making significant progress in reading.

DeWine said the state will provide funds to schools to acquire the curriculum and to train educators on how to use the program for the benefit of students.

“More than $100 million in our budget that we proposed, that the legislature is now working on the budget, but we’re going around the state learning and listening, but also urging the state legislature to pass the budget we proposed.”

DeWine said the significance of the initiative is that there are students who are not learning to read and it is negatively affecting their lives.

“We want every child in the state to live up to their God-given potential,” DeWine said. “And for that to happen, they have to learn to read.”

It not only hurts the students, DeWine said, but also the state. He said there were more jobs available than the number of people qualified to fill them. He said that the only way to fill these positions was not to waste the potential of Ohio students.

“Make every child, when they graduate from high school, go down some path.” DeWine said. “The only way they’re going to be on this road is if they can read. If they can’t read, they won’t live up to their full potential and Ohio won’t be as great a state as it can be.”

The initiative is also collaborating with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Ohio to develop recommendations for ongoing public-private partnerships aimed at promoting reading. This is led by First Lady Fran DeWine.

“It was really fun doing this program in Ohio,” he said. Fran DeWine said. “We now have over 51% of the children who have registered who are under the age of five.”

Ms. DeWine said the program provides a free book to children every month up to the age of five. She said 380,000 children were registered, which she said was more than in any other country, and within three years more than 10 million books had been sent to those children. She said it’s been transformative for families because they read together and prepare children for kindergarten.

“And then when they start Kindergarten, they’re introduced to the science of reading,” said Mrs. DeWine.

Raven Cromwell, assistant professor of education at Marietta College, said at the roundtable discussion that she has training in reading science. She can now pass that on to her students.

“One of our interns graduates already knowing the science of reading and knowing how to teach it,” Cromwell said. “You wouldn’t go into a class not knowing what to do.”

DeWine said he expected resistance to a new way of teaching, but that’s not what he found on this tour. When teachers start seeing results, he said, they become the most enthusiastic supporters

“Because they watch these kids get better every day,” DeWine said. “That’s what teachers want. Every teacher wants to be an effective teacher, and every teacher wants their kids to do well. I think that’s the really exciting thing about this, that teachers get excited about it when they see the results.”

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