A UC Irvine literacy program for seventh- to 11th-graders is set to be rolled out in six states throughout the country later this year, thanks to a $14.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

UCI’s Pathway to Academic Success Project has a 20-year history of success in 10 Southern California school districts and now will be introduced in schools in Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin, according to UCI education professor Carol Booth Olson, who said the program “sort of demystifies for kids what goes on in the mind of a reader or writer.”

The program focuses on students learning English as a second language, so “there’s a lot of multicultural text,” she said.

The teachers make the process of learning reading and writing more interactive, Olson said.

“We want them to slow down and go deep and really empower the kids to become the interpreters and askers of questions rather than relying on a teacher to give them a guided tour of the text,” Olson said.

A literary magazine of students’ work was produced with the last grant the program received, Olson said.

“They’re not just writing essays, but poems, tribute pieces about their parents, role models and about their lives,” she said. “We produced a beautiful literary magazine so they can see themselves in print and feel like writers.”

The program also grooms one teacher per school to be a literacy coach, Olson said.

In Southern California, most of the students have been primarily Spanish speakers, but in some of the cities outside of California, the program will have to focus on new languages such as Somali and Tagalog.

“We’ll have a linguist on campus to help if there are different challenges in different backgrounds,” Olson said.

The newly expanded program will begin in the Tustin Unified School District and branch out to cities outside of California later this year, Olson said.

The expansion will include 240 teachers and 109,200 students.

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