Harms is DPS School of the Week

…Lying on tummies, sharing big picture books in small groups on a colorful rug in the kindergarten classroom.

…Whispering quietly, hovering over an assigned book with a tutor at a table in the hallway on the second floor.

…Sitting with a friend, sharing a chapter book under the blue sky during recess.

Everywhere you turn at Harms Elementary, children are reading, reading, reading.

“Reading is the gateway to all other academic subjects,” said Mauro Cruz, principal of the Southwest Detroit School, which is recognized by Excellent Schools Detroit as one of the top elementary schools in the City.

Indeed, Harms students are on a path to read 30,000 books, collectively, by year’s end – once again – for the school’s annual reading contest.

Because reading is so revered at Harms, the students in grades 3-5 who meet their reading goals are treated like celebrities at the end of the year for an event in which a red carpet is rolled out in front of the school and students are rewarded with a ride in a stretch limousine to a downtown restaurant.

“Over the years, this event has become a tradition at Harms. Families come to take pictures and applaud as students board the limousines,” said Assistant Principal Amalia Lozano Chedraue.

Having all children read at high levels is no small feat for Harms, where many of the students are native Spanish speakers.

“The one thing our English Language Learners need is to learn to read while enhancing their academic and written language and vocabulary. We will do anything we can to have them read,” said Lozano Chedraue, who has even pledged to dye her hair pink if the school meets its reading goal. “The more they read, the more they have the opportunity to acquire language.”

To accommodate the many varied language abilities, Harms uses an intensive reading program called Success For All, a whole-school model.

“At the core of our reading program is cooperative learning, where students develop the skills to work together, engage in discussions, find solutions, elaborate and report,” said Cruz.

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