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December 15, 2023

A Joyful Noise

Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, events, parties, and songs include opportunities to create or listen to joyful noise. As you read that sentence, your memory bank or imagination probably brought forth several examples of such occurrences. I’m pretty certain none of you imagined the joyful noise I was a part of this past Saturday morning.

Picture this: Two hundred educators, some of them from Manatee County preschool centers, some from Manatee County kindergarten classrooms. All of these professionals voluntarily came to the Manatee Performing Arts Center for an event put forth by the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, The School District of Manatee County, Manatee County Government, Step-Up Suncoast, and the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. These passionaries spent three hours on a Saturday morning learning, discovering, and sharing about….wait for it……School Attendance. Not what you were expecting? Wondering where the joyful noise fits in? Stay with me.

We know that one of the first steps in a child’s educational journey is having them attend school regularly. Building a pattern of outstanding attendance can help provide a solid education foundation to our youngest learners. The partnerships between preschool educators, kindergarten teachers, and families can help to affirm the importance of consistent attendance. Attendance Works, a national non-profit initiative addressing chronic absence using a positive, problem-solving approach, shares, “Missing just one or two days of preschool or kindergarten every few weeks can make it harder for children to develop reading skills and to be prepared for kindergarten or first grade. A recent editorial in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune written by Nat Malkus states, “Nationwide, chronic absenteeism − the percentage of students missing at least 10% of a school year − surged from 15% in 2018 to 29% last year.” 

Attendees at this “Breakfast with a Purpose” experienced hands-on learning exercises designed to help them identify chronically absent students. They learned about the consequences of chronic absenteeism from Superintendent Dr. Jason Wysong and Darrell King, Chief Executive Officer of the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, obtained information about available community resources from Dr. Sheila Halpin, Director of Early Childhood Education for The School District of Manatee County, and learned new strategies to encourage regular attendance including learning and dancing to the jingle, Strive for Less than Five Days Absent. There it is, the joyful noise!

Strive for Less Than Five Days Absent, with music by Jim Prosser and lyrics by Beth Duda, is a catchy tune that can be quickly taught to students of any age. The educators in the audience were dancing in their seats when they first heard the jingle, and they practically leaped to their feet when given a chance to learn the choreography. Each educator was given a music track with the lyrics, a track without the lyrics, sheet music, a link to the jingle, and a link to a video teaching the choreography. If the enthusiasm of the educators is any indication, this song will be joyfully ringing from classrooms all over Manatee County.

Link to video featuring the song…


Link to the video featuring the choreography…

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