By Superintendent Van Ayres

Why is third grade so important when it comes to literacy? That’s the grade where students transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’ Up until third grade, you are learning the tools to improve your reading including phonics, letters and sentence structure. After that, reading is the tool to help further your education.

Literacy, especially in early childhood, is critical. We celebrate and promote literacy every day in Hillsborough County Public Schools. However, it gets increased attention and focus during one week in January for Celebrate Literacy Week. This year, Celebrate Literacy Week falls on Monday through Friday, January 22-26. It’s designed to raise awareness about the importance of reading and to inspire Florida’s students and families to make reading part of their daily lives.

Our schools do a phenomenal job of coming up with ways to make literacy fun and engaging. The district’s literacy team is always working on new initiatives to best assist our teachers with this important job. Our district has begun implementing UFLI, which stands for University of Florida Literacy Institute. UFLI focuses on two main areas: teacher development and reader development. The programs and resources are designed to help teachers become more confident and successful in their capacity to help kids learn to read.

Our district also utilizes myON, which is a personalized digital library at students’ fingertips. myON gives students access to more than 7,000 books. Titles are matched to each student’s interests, grade, and reading level.

myON is also a great resource to use during a family reading night. Make it part of your routine. Every evening, put aside 20 or 30 minutes to read as a family. Use myON, or take turns reading aloud, or sitting together quietly with your own book.

For younger children, our district literacy team put together a series of phonics videos called ‘Learning Letters.’ These adorable videos are hosted by two of our amazing early childhood educators, and they take each letter of the alphabet and sound it out, find words that begin with that letter and teach your child how to write that letter. I strongly urge you to check these videos out at

Remember, Celebrating Literacy Week is January 22-26, and our schools are planning a lot of exciting activities to Celebrate Literacy!

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