Few projects a community volunteer could take on would surpass the good that comes from helping a disadvantaged child learn to love reading.
Poor children often enter kindergarten way behind their more-affluent peers in pre-literacy skills such as vocabulary, rhyming, letter identification, and alliteration. Some of their parents are functionally illiterate.
Many students never catch up. The knowledge gap only widens as children get older, saddling kids with lifetime disadvantages that largely determine how successful they become as adolescents, parents, and adult workers.
That’s why the Creating Young Readers program, a Read for Literacy initiative featured in The Blade last week, is so important. With one-on-one tutoring for reading readiness skills, adults and children take turns reading and discussing picture books.
The program builds interest and excitement in reading, serving children in more than 20 preschools and elementary schools, including Pickett, Glenwood, and Robinson in Toledo Public Schools, where it has expanded from kindergarten to first grade.
Last summer, to alleviate so-called summer slide, 80 volunteers read to more than 1,000 children at six central-city branch libraries.
Serving Toledo, Rossford, and Fostoria, Creating Young Readers helps 287 students. It aims to assist 450 children this school year, but needs 200 more volunteers to get there.
Students get at least one 20-minute session a week, but many get them two or three times a week. With sufficient volunteers, all children in the program will get three sessions a week.
Creating Young Readers, which started in 2009, already shows results. Surveyed teachers say the program has sharpened pre-literacy skills and, equally important, boosted enthusiasm for reading.
It has also improved student behavior and changed the way children look at reading. Finally, formal test assessments show students in the program have higher literacy skills than they would otherwise have been expected to demonstrate.
People looking for ways to improve their community would find a rewarding, and enduring, way to do it by giving children the lifetime gift of reading.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Sara Mattson, coordinator of early literacy services for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, at 419-242-7323, or firstname.lastname@example.org.