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October 1, 2015

Harris' Heroes: "Reading Partner" program aims to close reading gap in schools

September 30, 2015 / ABC7 News / Source

Six-year-old Janiyaha Marshall wants to be a rock star. She’s also been identified as reading below grade level.

Twice a week, Janiyaha and other first grade students at Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast Washington get pulled out of their classrooms to get some individual reading support. The program is called “Reading Partners,” and it’s goal is to close the reading gap.

“We’ve seen incredible results this past year, ” said Karen Gardner, executive director of Reading Partners in the District. “Our students doubled their rate of learning.”

School Principal Zara Berry-Young said her students are, “excited to have someone sit side-by-side with them… and really practice on their reading skills.”

The program works with students in kindergarten through fourth grade and focuses on phonics and reading comprehension. The young students say it’s fun.

“I was playing a game – race cars,” said first grader Decayla Young.

“I beat her on Go Fish,” added Marshall with a lot of excitement, referring to the game she played with her tutor.

D.C. Program Director Shannon Kane wants students to be excited.

“It emphasizes that learning can happen in any format, and it’s to keep them excited. It’s to keep them engaged. It’s to reinforce skills as opposed to boring drill and kill worksheets,” said Kane.

Volunteers say the rewards are well worth the time spent.

“I love learning from our students. I love when they surprise me,” said Naomi Shachter who has been part of the program for several years. “It’s so joyful to be able to really connect with a student and see them learn.”

Volunteer Tutor Edgar Novoa added, “One hour isn’t much to ask for an adult, but that one hour that you give can lead to life-changing outcomes.”

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