Reading In Motion was originally named Whirlwind Performance Company and founded as a non-profit arts organization in January 1983 by three artists. In November of 2003 Whirlwind officially changed its name to Reading In Motion, which more closely reflects the organization’s current mission of teaching reading through the arts.
From the earliest days, the organization’s founders, who include current Executive Director Karl Androes, created programming for students based on the belief that children can learn basic skills through the arts. In 1984, the Illinois Arts Council challenged this young organization to create a model for arts company residencies in Illinois schools, and the following spring a pilot arts residency program, combining direct service to students, workshops, and performances, was launched in Danville, Illinois. This pilot provided the design for the organization’s school programming which linked the arts with the teaching of core curriculum, a format the company followed successfully for over 10 years.
In the mid 90s, it became clear to Karl and the Board of Directors that the biggest challenge facing students was their poor reading skills. After much study and research, the company began to shift its educational focus towards improving the reading skills of children, especially those in the Chicago Public Schools. Reading In Motion continued to develop its acclaimed arts-based reading curriculum over the next several years and in 1997 widened its scope to include the training of teachers in order to reach an even larger number of students.
Reading In Motion has long recognized the importance of evaluation and accountability in both the arts and education fields and has been in the forefront of assessment and evaluation of student progress. The organization conducts regular student assessments and supports independent studies of its work to help gauge the impact on student learning. Across the board, these studies have shown that Reading In Motion students make significantly more progress in reading than students not participating in the program.
Reading research shows that reaching children early in life has been proven to be the most effective way to impact their development positively. Therefore, 2003 saw the company refocus its educational efforts more closely on the critical kindergarten through third grade years. Using the best current reading research and 20 years of experience in teaching children to read through dance, drama, and music, Reading In Motion began developing a new, more comprehensive reading program for the primary grades. The new program, called Benchmarks, has students beginning the Reading In Motion curriculum in kindergarten and continuing with it through the third grade. The goal for this program is to have students reading at or above grade level at the end of each and every year.
Results from the Benchmarks kindergarten pilot have been very promising. A study of the kindergartners who participated in the program during the 2004-2005 school year showed that 75% of them reached grade level at the end of kindergarten. This is compared to only 17% of kindergartners who met the year end grade level benchmark in the closely matched control group. In 2005-2006, Reading In Motion trained teachers to implement the program in their classrooms. These teachers were able to get 88% of their kindergarteners to grade level reading by year end.
Benchmarks emphasizes teacher training as the best means for amplifying the impact of the Reading In Motion curriculum. Teachers, who know their students best, are trained in Reading In Motion methods and implement the curriculum as part of their daily lesson plans.