This article was originally published on October 29, 2023, with Honolulu Civic Beat.
At Makakilo Elementary, Christine Carder posed a question to her first graders. “What letters make the sound ‘ea’ as in tea?” The class eagerly scrambled to write down the correct letter combination in their notebooks.
This exercise helps to build students’ phonemic awareness, instructional coach Karen Yogi explained to the group of parents invited to observe Makakilo’s reading lessons for the morning. Older students will later advance to activities such as reading in pairs and assessing each other’s fluency and vocabulary skills, Yogi added.
“This is why my son says he’s famished at dinner, instead of hungry,” said parent Donna Sinclair, noting the improvement she’s seen in her fifth-grader’s vocabulary this year.
Makakilo Elementary is one of about 80 schools in the state to receive funding from a roughly $50 million federal grant awarded in 2019 to improve literacy among the country’s youngest readers.