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April 1, 2012

Reading Partners Looks To Address Challenges With Literacy

Some of you may know them.  You may even be their moms and dads and you know the struggles they face each and everyday.  You see them struggle when trying to read a book or even forming a mere sentence.

You know their confidence gets lower and lower with each word read in front of the class.  Some of you may have even been those kids.

I never realized how much I have taken reading for granted. Growing up I never had academic difficulties, reading included.  If anything, the only time I struggled with reading was when comparing myself to other kids who I felt were more articulate and could read faster than I could, and I would try to imitate their graceful (or so I deemed, graceful) reading style.  It didn’t really work, I guess I had my own style.

A few books later, and a little lesson on self-esteem, I find myself here, writing this article working as an outreach coordinator for a literacy non-profit organization, whose mission is to instill a lifelong love of reading in all children.  But specifically work for those who unlike me, don’t take reading for granted.  They struggle with pronunciation, with sounds, with comprehension.

Ultimately these kids are not only at-risk of being embarrassed by poor reading skills, but they are at risk of becoming statistics. Third grade literacy scores predict high school drop out rates by 70%.   According to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, in the state of TX, only 30% of fourth graders in low-income families are reading at grade level.  That’s a lot of high school dropouts!

There are a few outliers, but for the most part, high school dropouts, unfortunately have less financial stability, and more criminal history. A child’s future can be foretold by third grade, but not always.  Although there are numerous reasons why children do not receive a quality education, the one truth is simple: every child deserves a quality education.

So then, what’s the solution to this problem? Well, I don’t know, but I know that a little bit goes a long way.  The organization that I work for, Reading Partners is an educational non-profit organization that tries to solve the problem of illiteracy and low self-esteem in kids.  I know I’m biased, I work for the organization, but I am also a tutor.

I hear the stories of student’s whose confidence levels rise, of volunteers sharing their gifts and their talents to help kids that are not their own.  I see kids coming into the classroom where they are tutored with a smile from ear to ear, and teachers who need the help….Everyday.

Reading Partners matches community volunteers with at-risk K-5th grade students who are ½ – 2 ½ reading levels below grade level.  Students are tutored twice a week, at no cost to them or their families.  The program relies solely on fundraising, school and community support, and volunteers to operate in each of its partner schools.  On average 88% of students in the program accelerate one reading level with 26 hours of tutoring.

Volunteers give 45 minutes, one day per week to participate in one-on-one tutoring.  Most have no previous tutoring or teaching experience.  They come from all walks of life ranging in age from high school students to senior citizens.

Third graders don’t have to be statistics. A one-on-one tutoring relationship could be the very thing that turns a potential high school dropout into a future college graduate, entrepreneur, businessperson, world changer, or a smart and savvy stay-at-home parent.

–Ashley Richard, Dallas South News / Source

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