Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reason 40 of 45 in Our 45 Day Countdown to the NEA RA's Adoption of the NEA FINE ARTS CAUCUS STE(A)M New Business Item

What is STE(A)M?

Through a panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. held Sept. 12, 2012, Reading Is Fundamental launched its multi-year campaign focused on the intersection of early childhood literacy and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The campaign is anchored by RIF's STEAM-based Multicultural Book Collection (, which includes free activity guides for parents, teachers and community volunteers.

Kicked off by RIF President and CEO Carol H. Rasco, the following panelists discussed the importance of STEAM education at the earliest opportunity in a child's life: Dr. Martin Storksdieck (moderator), Mr. Stephen Barkanic, Dr. Judy Cheatham and Dr. P. David Pearson. (The discussion is posted in four parts.)

Reading is Fundamental's (RIF's) FULL STEAM AHEAD Part II
Reading is Fundamental's (RIF's) FULL STEAM AHEAD Part III
Reading is Fundamental's (RIF's) FULL STEAM AHEAD Part IV


Dr. Judy Cheatham, Vice President of Literary Services at Reading is Fundamental (RIF), was in Rhode Island in January, leading teacher training at two Central Falls schools as part of a program to boost reading achievement of low-income students, all of it fueled by books with STEAM themes.

“Two out of every three kids living at or below the poverty line doesn’t own a book,” reflected Cheatham over lunch with RISD STEAM Club students Ryan Murphy and Jessica Kleinman and RISD Director of Government Relations Babette Alina.  “The yield is a lot of children stuck in the middle of words they don’t understand.”

Enter RIF’s new reading achievement initiative, funded in part by a $4.18 million award by the Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program.  RIF staff members like Dr. Cheatham will provide STEAM-based book collection, along with related teaching materials, to targeted schools. Each library or media center will also receive a copy of the collection. Children at these schools will choose eight STEAM-themed books to keep as their own and read during the summer break.

At Veteran’s Memorial Elementary in Central Falls, Dr. Cheatham spoke with teachers about the ways in which the new STEAM reading list will help to activate schema, or background knowledge.  She held up books like Amelia to Zora andThree Hens & A Peacock, citing their vibrant artwork and creative displays of information.  “There’s math in design,” she said, “and science in mixing colors.  You can’t do math if you can’t draw.”

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