Read to Succeed program kicks off at four area libraries today

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Even for a half-hour between breakfast and swim team practice, Julie Steele takes advantage of working with her daughter to increase her reading skills.

Steele said she heard about a new reading program when teacher Marsha Sander began implementing it in the Jackson School District. Last summer, Steele started checking out books at South Elementary and tutoring her daughter, Elizabeth, who had just finished kindergarten. She said she saw results by the time her daughter entered first grade.

"It went from a reading confidence to a love of reading," she said.

The structured program uses a series of research-based books and occasional tests to build reading skills. Because it is volunteer-based, students work one-on-one with a tutor.

"I think it just gives parents very clear instructions on how to introduce new sounds, new words," said Steele, who continues using the program.

Graces Women's Council hopes more parents will do the same as it kicks off its Read to Succeed program 9 a.m. today at the Riverside Regional Library in Jackson.

The group, sponsored by United Way of Southeast Missouri, provided $4,000 to buy materials to start the program at Riverside Regional Library branches in Jackson and Scott City as well as the Cape Girardeau and Jackson public libraries. At the kickoff event, there will be educational games and placement tests.

Parents, siblings or other tutors can check out the materials to work on skills during summer break, said Nancy Howland, director of Riverside Regional Library.

Over "the three months of summer they tend to forget, and reading is really based on practice," she said. The materials will be available year-round, and there will also be DVDs to help tutors with the program.

Sander started implementing the program as a response to intervention in reading at four elementary schools in Jackson last year. Community and student volunteers worked with students throughout the year.

The school program, she said, supplements other intervention programs, reading specialists and classroom work. By the end of the year, 90 percent of first-grade students at South Elementary were reading at or above grade level, she said.

"That says something very positive," Sander said. The library program, she said, will give parents or other tutors the opportunity to work with students on boosting their skills.

Next year, the program will continue at Jackson and Graces is recruiting volunteers to expand it to Blanchard Elementary School in the Cape Girardeau School District. Sander will also coordinate a summer program at the Cape Area Family Resource Center starting June 28. The program is open to all for students who just completed kindergarten or first grade, she said.

For volunteer opportunities at the Family Resource Center or Blanchard Elementary, contact United Way at 334-9634.

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