Read to Succeed program expanding in Cape, Jackson this fall

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Plan A for growing a volunteer-run reading improvement program in local elementary schools is now in action.

Read to Succeed, a project of the United Way of Southeast Missouri that until this summer depended on a funding donation from the GRACES Women's Council, sends around 140 volunteer tutors from the community into two Cape Girardeau elementary schools to help kindergarten and first-grade students up their grade-level reading skills.

Beginning this fall, it will serve students in all of the Cape Girardeau district's elementary schools and one school in Jackson.

The success of the program in the past two years at Blanchard and Alma Schrader prompted coordinators and school district officials to seek ways to bring it to more schools. The school district, the United Way and the women's group conceived two plans to fund expansion, the first of which included using grant funding from AmeriCorps to start the program in the district's other three elementary schools, Franklin, Clippard and Jefferson.

The United Way applied for the grant earlier this year and was notified in June that the grant amount will cover the cost of adding the program to the remaining Cape Girardeau schools and Gordonville Attendance Center in the Jackson School District. If the United Way had not received the grant, a plan involving Cape Girardeau School District funding and a matching donation from a private party would have been used for a smaller expansion.

The cost of expansion is around $8,000 per school, depending on materials needed. The total amount of the grant was not immediately available Tuesday.

Cape Girardeau superintendent Jim Welker said the results that the program has shown so far meant the district would have taken the steps to see it expand if the grant hadn't come through.

"It really has made a difference in the kids' reading ability, and we always want to do anything we can to improve that," he said.

Alma Schrader first-graders averaged 1.3 years of progress in grade-level reading ability and 88 percent of Blanchard kindergartners ended the school year reading above grade level, according to Monique Johnson, Alma Schrader's volunteer coordinator.

Johnson will become the director of the program for the next school year.

The grant will allow the program to hire a coordinator for the schools, said Bekki Cook, Blanchard's coordinator, who is also responsible for adapting the program for implementation in Cape Girardeau schools. There is also a possibility for a few tutors to receive some pay in each school, but they must be willing to spend several sessions tutoring students.

Cook said finding the number of volunteers to staff the program will be critical between now and the start of the school year, and that a total of 200 sessions per week will need to be covered.

Around 200 volunteers will be needed to cover sessions in all the schools. Coordinators expect many volunteers doing sessions at one school will break out to other schools, but backups will be needed as well.

Volunteers can provide tutoring one session per week at minimum but are encouraged to do more if they can, Cook said. Sessions last for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the school the student attends and whether they are in kindergarten or first grade. Students participate in the one-on-one sessions four times per week.

"What we want to come out of this is the help of the community in supporting our children, who really need our help," Cook said.

Principals were asked to determine which grade in their school needed the program, and teachers from the grade selected students from their classes to participate based on their need to improve their reading abilities.

Programs will begin in September and October. Cook said volunteer training events will be held in August and September, but the events have not yet been scheduled.

More information on volunteering is available by calling the United Way at 334-9634.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

614 E. Adams St., Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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