By Art Garcia
Joshua is pretty sure what reading means to him and his future.
“I love reading because my brain needs to read more to get into middle school and high school,” said the 7-year-old Westcliff Elementary student during a midmorning snack break recently.
In the simplest terms, he’s right. Joshua was one of 12 students participating in Read2Win’s summer program at Westcliff. Read2Win managed two sites at Fort Worth ISD elementary schools as part of Read Fort Worth’s Summer Scholars Collaborative.
The Summer Scholars Collaborative featured 12 programs, including Read2Win, operating at more than 60 sites across the city. Each of the programs included a purposeful literacy component designed to prevent the loss of literacy levels over the summer. In other words, the programs helped students avoid “summer slide.”
Sharon Taylor, the Literacy Support Specialist assigned to the Westcliff site, saw exactly that. The students at Westcliff made significant strides in their literacy levels, according to Taylor, over the course of the four-week program.
The Westcliff site included four stations – sight word practice, individual reading, small group guided reading and Smarty Ants, which the kids cycled through each day. Site Word Bingo – the pieces were M&M’s – is one of the games played during the summer that helped the kids increase reading fluency.
Nothing like tying reading in with candy. At least for kids.
“This bunch is reading like whips,” said Taylor, a 30-year veteran educator who teaches Pre-K at Logan Elementary during the school year. “Read2Win works. They’ve gone up at least reading one level. It works.”
Taylor stressed the organization and abundance of learning resources provided by Read2Win as a reason for the summer program’s success. The students on average went up at least one reading level over the course of the four weeks, according to Read2Win President & CEO Sultan Cole.
“The program went extremely well,” Cole said. “We had students for four weeks for half a day receiving a high dosage of reading intervention. We’re currently compiling our end-of-program results, and expect to see reading level gains of 1 to 1 1/2 levels.”
Cole added that attendance percentage numbers should be in the high 80s or low 90s, illustrating the commitment of the families involved.
“To get their kids there by 7:30 every morning just shows how much the parents cared,” he said.
The vision of Read2Win is to provide Tarrant County elementary students who need help increasing their reading skills with caring reading coaches. Read2Win matches these reading coaches from local churches, business and other community stakeholders.
“Our program is so scalable,” Cole said. “A minimum investment of your time can have a lifelong impact. Our success has been word of mouth. We don’t have a large marketing budget. It’s been our name recognition and the effectiveness of the program. People realize it works.”
Dynastee, an 8-year-old third grader at West Handley Elementary, really enjoyed reading with the Literacy Support Specialist and volunteers at her school. She also took particular interest in the science activities. The program included a field trip to the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT).
“I like when we had the plant STEM station,” Dynastee said. “We learned about plants, seeds, seedlings and leaves. Flowers can grow leaves.”
Naomi Cole, a Read2Win intern and senior at Abilene Christian, noticed significant improvement in the West Handley students from the start of the program through the end.
“They were already reading words that they didn’t know because of the different activities that they had at each station,” said Naomi, who’s also Cole’s daughter. “There was a real difference.”
Each of the students in the Read2Win summer program was given books to take home, by both Read2Win and through a donation by Read Fort Worth. The opportunity to build a home library is crucial to out-of-school learning and growth.
“At an early age my mother would challenge me to read books in our home and be prepared to discuss what I learned,” Sultan Cole said. “This ignited the spark for me becoming a lifelong reader, a lifelong learner. Having a small library of sorts in our home, prepared me in some ways to experience a successful career in engineering management.
“Today, I am now paying it forward as the Executive Director and CEO of Read2Win. My goal is to not only help first- and second-graders attain reading level by third grade, but cultivate a desire in every student our program serves to become a lifelong reader. It’s simple but oft times overlooked that if you can’t read, you can’t do math, science, or be successful in one’s educational aspirations.”
For more information of Read2Win’s volunteer program, please visit here.