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Book Buddies program joins national literacy nonprofit to expand impact

  • Sunday, November 10, 2013

National education nonprofit Reading Partners has announced that the Charleston Volunteers for Literacy Book Buddies Program officially became Reading Partners Charleston, its 11th regional branch. Reading Partners is a highly effective literacy program, offering children one-on-one tutoring with a highly trained volunteer.

Charleston Volunteers for Literacy Book Buddies Program began in 2008, and has helped equip hundreds of Charleston students with the skills they need to succeed in school and beyond. The evolution of the program has included expansion to some additional schools, and coordinated work with district leaders to complement Charleston County’s Literacy Academy work. Reading Partners’ research-based model with measureable outcomes was the logical next step to scale the program for eventual expansion into all Title 1 elementary schools in Charleston County.

Charleston Volunteers for Literacy Executive Director Kecia Greenho will continue her role as executive director of Reading Partners Charleston. “Reading confidently is a skill with the power to transform a child’s life,” said Greenho, Reading Partners Charleston executive director. “With the support of dedicated Charlestonians, Reading Partners is opening doors of opportunity for children throughout our community.”

Last year, nearly 6,000 Reading Partners tutors worked with more than 5,250 students in low-income schools across six states and the District of Columbia. In the 2013-14 school year,

Reading Partners Charleston will work with 400 students in eight schools in the Charleston community. Elementary school students across America are falling behind in the acquisition of critical reading skills. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2011, just 32 percent of the nation’s fourth graders in public school were reading at proficiency or above. In South Carolina, four out of five fourth graders from low-income families cannot read at grade level.

Working in schools in low-income communities, Reading Partners transforms a dedicated space into a reading center, complete with a library and teaching tools managed by a full-time staff member. Reading Partners collaborates with teachers and principals to identify students reading six months to two and a half years behind grade level, and provides them with personalized literacy instruction.

“Improving literacy is the key to producing college- and career-ready adults,” said Dr. Nancy J. McGinley, Superintendent of Charleston County School District. “Reading Partners Charleston provides a vital service by connecting community members with students in their communities who are struggling to read. The program directly supports CCSD’s focused effort on literacy improvement as the cornerstone for achievement overall.”

CCSD’s focus on literacy has seen positive results through district-wide efforts such as improving the early childhood curriculum; selecting materials that best meet the needs of general classrooms and reading intervention groups; providing reading support specialists (interventionists) for supplemental, small group and one-on-one instruction where needed; and carefully monitoring and assessing the progress of below-grade level readers. The district’s partnership with Reading Partners is an excellent example of the success and growth of one of these efforts.

Reading Partners recruits and trains community volunteers to provide weekly one-on-one literacy tutoring using its highly effective curriculum, a series of structured lesson plans that progress from phonics instruction for younger students to higher order comprehension strategies for older students.

Reading Partners sees demonstrable results in the reading skills of students in its program. In the 2012-13 school year, 88 percent of students accelerated their progress in reading. Before enrollment last year, Reading Partners students gained an average of only 0.6 months of reading skills for every month in the classroom. By the end of the year with Reading Partners, our students gained an average of 1.6 months of reading skills per month, more than doubling their rate of learning and catching up to their on-grade peers.

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