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December 14, 2022

Hundreds of volunteers needed for Reading Partners to help with reading loss

Originally posted on Live 5 News

By Michael Hidgon

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – A Lowcountry program working to ensure that all children in our community have the opportunity to succeed is asking for help.

Since the onset of the pandemic and disrupted learning, reading progress for young children has slowed. It’s not unexpected, but a new look at data shows just how much students are behind.

The National Association for Educational Progress, also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” recently issued its signature report showing the declines in reading scores in 2022 spared virtually no one. It raised concerns because the data shows reading scores for 9-year-olds fell between 2020 and 2022 to a level not seen in 30 years. The report further shows that the pandemic affected most student groups but had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable students. For example, the gaps between white students and Black and Hispanic students were larger in 2022 than three years ago, with greater score declines for Black and Hispanic students further widening those gaps.

One Lowcountry organization is working to bridge the gap in reading loss but they can’t do it without help. The Reading Partners program places tutors to work in area schools with students who need to improve their literacy and reading levels.

The group is, however, short of volunteers. The program currently has 289 students enrolled, but 612 have been referred to the program because of how far they are behind with their reading levels. The organization needs 300 more volunteers to help all the kids who need it.

“If it wasn’t for volunteers, we would not be able to run our program,” Reading Partners Program Director Kelly Clouser says. “All we’re asking is for one hour to empower or two hours to impact. We use to say one hour was enough but now we’re asking just for consistency for our students which is to have the two hours as well.”

Clouser says they’re seeing the biggest results in Kindergarten through second-grade students.

“Ninety percent of students met their primary literacy growth goal from K-2 last year which is which is phenomenal,” Clouser says. “If we continue to see that moving forward every year we will be able to bridge that gap a little bit closer.”

For those who might be nervous about the teaching aspect of the program, each lesson lays out exactly what you need to do.

“I would say just give it a try,” Clouser says. “We offer an orientation. We put them through that part of the process and then we bring them in and work with them independently and answer whatever questions they have. Everything in the curriculum is scripted. So they know exactly what they need to say and obviously, we want them to build those relationships with the students as well.”

Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. Volunteering can be done in person or virtually. Sessions generally take place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. If you’d like to learn more or to sign up, go here.

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