VERMILLION COUNTY, Ind. (WAWV/WTWO) – Last week the state of Indiana joined Lilly Endowment to announce the state’s largest financial investment in literacy. Around $111 million will target Indiana students’ greatest reading challenges.

South Vermillion School Corporation said investments in foundational literacy skills will set students up for success later in life.

“Literacy is the Hallmark of learning for any area our students wish to go in and pursue throughout the rest of their lives,” Director of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment Melanie Beaver said.

Beaver said the states’ investment will help continue literacy incentive’s the corporation started before and in light of the pandemic.

“This is the beginning of year four of our science and reading focus, at the K-2 level,” Beaver said. “It’s really important that we move from balanced literacy instructional approach during those foundational years to a more structured, explicit phonics instruction base.”

While the corporation aims to stay ahead of learning loss and literacy challenges, Ernie Pyle Principal, Kim Kessler, said there is always room to improve.

“If we focus on IREAD-3, we’re at 86% corporation-wide pass rate,” Kessler said. “That was 4% below the average from last year, and we want to stay ahead.”

The investment will support using teaching strategies that align with the Science of Reading, which Kessler believes her students are ahead of the game.

“We currently have an entire fleet of teachers K-2 that have been trained in the science of reading and those literacy strategies,” Kessler said. “Next month all of our teachers are going to be trained in the Orton Gillingham Methods, which is another strategy.”

With students spending most of their hours in the classroom, Kessler said the key to retaining early literacy is simple.

“You have to make it engaging, you have to make it fun, and you have to make it hands-on,” She added.

The state’s goal is to have 95 percent of Indiana’s students pass IREAD-3 by 2027.