Monday, August 07, 2017
by Dave Whaley
AMH | In 2013, BJC CEO Steve Lipstein was honored with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Citizen of the Year award. While accepting the award, he noted that a child’s third-grade reading status is an early predictor of lifelong earning potential and life expectancy.
“That really stuck with me,” says AMH board chairman Steve Thompson. “I thought about what a short window that was, and how fortunate I was to have parents who read to me.”
Only 20 percent of second- and third-graders reading below grade level will go on to college. Thompson began asking the question, “What can we do to improve this?”
He met with Alton School District literacy coaches Elaine Kane and Rene Hart to share his vision of people reading to people. His enthusiasm was contagious, and soon they developed a plan.
“We tried to think out of the box,” Thompson explains. “Children arrive at school at 7:30 a.m. and wait for school to begin at 8 a.m. What if they used that time to read? We piloted a program at East Elementary School, with children reading books of their choice to adults. Our goal was to get 20 volunteers from area businesses, churches and senior groups.”
Thompson started drumming up support, creating a network of people who care. The ROAR (Reach Out and Read) program was an instant success.
“We now have nearly 200 volunteers, and the program keeps growing,” Thompson says. “We added first and second grades and offer the program in all seven elementary schools.”
And they are seeing results. At East Elementary, the percentage of children reading at or above grade level increased from 50 percent to 75 percent. A total of 191 volunteers contributed 2,908 hours during the 2015-16 school year to help children improve their reading skills by providing individual attention and encouragement. The dollar value of this donation of time is nearly $30,000. Nearly 40 percent of the volunteers are men, providing a positive male influence. More than 60 staff members volunteer their time to coordinate the ROAR program. And there’s never a shortage of children waiting to read to an adult.
The cost of the program is negligible, and the benefits are immense. Many volunteers say that spending time with the children gives them a lift that stays with them throughout the day. Volunteers are screened by filling out a form, and new volunteers are always welcome. For more information on how you can help, contact Elaine Kane, firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-433-7835.
Dave Whaley, email@example.com
Tags : Steve Thompson
Number of views (998)/Comments (3)
8/9/2017 9:27 AM
There is a program called Reach Out and Read in which a physician gives a new age appropriate book to infants and toddlers at their well child appointments from 6 month to age 5 years. The giving of the book increases the likelihood that a parent will actually start the habit of reading to their child daily. Just recommending reading is often not enough. Children who get these books have higher pre-reading skills when they enter kindergarten. The books are purchased through reach out and read. Scholastic sells the books at a discount through this program. This may be another way to enrich our children and communities.
8/9/2017 9:33 AM
Thanks for the info, Amy!
We agree that getting books to children and parents is very important (which is why we do the BJC Summer Book Brigade - http://www.bjctodayonline.org/Home/HeadlineNews/NewsArticle/TabId/130/ArtMID/531/ArticleID/2235/Behind-the-scenes-of-the-BJC-Summer-Book-Brigade.aspx)
8/14/2017 1:01 PM
I've heard about this program from friends in the Alton area who volunteer. What a GREAT way to make an impact on your community!