September 17, 2013
Running Full Speed Ahead: North Texas Giving and Reading Partners Help Anthony Reach his Full Potential
Racing to the Reading Center at Sudie L. Williams Elementary School, my energetic student stops suddenly in his tracks, turns around abruptly, and waves for me to hasten my pace. When I finally catch up to the full-of-life second grader, he looks at me knowingly and says, “I will always be able to run faster than you, Ms. Kelsey.” Jokingly, I place my hands on my knees and take deep, long breaths. “You are probably right,” I manage a reply, “but you can never be sure.” He seems to consider this for a moment, but then stands up straighter with an inner resolve of confidence. “My shoes,” he says while he points at his blue and red sneakers with Velcro straps “are the fastest shoes in the whole, wide world!” He speeds off again with his arms swinging and I can almost believe they really are the fastest shoes ever made.
When I finally reach him at the door of the Reading Center, I tell him to catch his breath before we begin our 45-minute tutoring session. When he insists, despite his best intentions, that his shoes simply will not stay still, I suggest he slip them off under the desk so that he can concentrate on reading with me. For the next 45 minutes, we read his favorite story about sea creatures, recite vocabulary words, spell them aloud, and use them to make new sentences on a wipe-off board. At the end of the session, his speedy shoes go back on his feet and it is off to class once more. It would appear nothing could slow him down – apart from one thing. He is in second grade, but he reads at a kindergarten level, essentially two grade levels below his peers and classmates. Anthony, as we will call him, was one of 500 students enrolled in the Reading Partners program in Dallas during the 2012-13 academic year. Twice a week, he met with a volunteer tutor for 45 minutes to help accelerate his literacy skills.
Reading Partners has proven to dramatically improve reading skills for struggling, young readers. For every month with the program’s structured curriculum, students on average gain 1.6 months of reading skills. In Dallas, Texas, 457 volunteers provided 9,640 hours of literacy tutoring to Dallas Independent School District elementary school students over the course of the 2012-13 academic year. As a result of our community members’ dedication and support, 90% of our students accelerated their rate of learning and 77% of our students ended the year closer to grade level in Dallas.
For Anthony, not only did his literacy skills improve over the course of the year, but his teacher indicated a marked change in his behavior and participation in class. The principal at his school voiced, “The most important benefit is the level of support and preparation that [Reading Partners] offers. They are able to coordinate the student needs and community availability really well.” Reading Partners works to equip the community to serve at local elementary schools by pairing students with volunteer tutors — like you — to provide individualized literacy instruction. By supporting Reading Partners, you can make a lasting, positive impact and help students in your community experience the joy and power of reading.
On September 19, Reading Partners will join more than 1,000 other North Texas nonprofit organizations for North Texas Giving Day hosted by Communities Foundation of Texas. By participating in North Texas Giving Day, Reading Partners Dallas seeks to increase visibility and awareness of our organization throughout the Dallas community. It only takes $1,000 in private philanthropy to sponsor one student’s experience this school year! Help your dollar go far and support a student – like Anthony – on September 19.
Reading is a gateway skill, which means, with a strong foundation in reading, Anthony will succeed in other subjects like writing, math, social studies, or his particular favorite, marine biology. We often talk about what he would like to be when he grows up and with the literacy skills he is obtaining through the Reading Partners program, I’m eager to see him grow to dive the deepest sea and climb the highest mountain. Help us support students like Anthony and “Get up and Give” on September 19.