Sunday, January 27, 2013

The fastest shoes in the whole, entire world

Racing to the Reading Center at Sudie L. Williams Elementary School, my energetic student stops suddenly in his tracks, turns around quickly, 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 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, entire 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, is one of 222 students currently enrolled in the Reading Partners program in Dallas. He meets with a volunteer tutor for 45 minutes, twice a week, to help accelerate his literacy skills.

Reading Partners is an early, literacy intervention program that aims to improve literacy among students whose reading skills are six months to 2 1/2 years behind grade level. The national nonprofit, pairs volunteers (like you) with students (like Anthony) at local elementary schools for one-on-one reading tutoring. By becoming a volunteer tutor with Reading Partners, you can make a positive impact and help students in your community improve their literacy skills.

The program facilitates Reading Centers in 10 Dallas Independent School District elementary schools. At each partner school, a space is converted into a warm, inviting Reading Center where elementary school students come to learn one-on-one with a caring volunteer tutor.
Research has shown that right here in Dallas, 89% of fourth graders growing up in low-income families are reading below grade level. Reading Partners is striving to make literacy a national priority so that every child can reach his or her full potential through the joy and power of reading. It is the program’s mission to reverse these trends by engaging local communities to provide the individual attention young readers need and deserve.
Reading Partners has been proven to dramatically improve reading skills for struggling, young readers. For every month with the program’s structured curriculum, students typically gain 1.6 months of reading skills. Anthony’s literacy skills have not only dramatically improved, but his confidence has also grown by leaps and bounds. Reading is a gateway skill, which means with a strong foundation in reading, he 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 with Reading Partners, I am eager to see him grow to dive the deepest sea and climb the highest mountain.