According to Readers 2 Leaders Reading Buddy volunteer and Board member LaurieGrace Bouldin,
“Over the past two years, my wishes for Dallas, have changed dramatically. It started when I heard about a local nonprofit, Readers 2 Leaders (“R2L”), and ventured onto their website. I learned that there is a literacy crisis in our Dallas schools. For example, did you know that 67% of DISD 3rd graders do not read on grade level? That’s a big deal, because at 4th grade, if you’re behind in reading, the chances of ever catching up are slim to none. The consequences of this are more extreme than I had realized.
“Why is that so? Because in school, children receive curriculum and are learning to read through 3rd grade. After that, they read to learn. I’ll cut to the chase: if a child isn’t reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, it’s almost a guarantee that this child will struggle every remaining year in school, will experience discipline and confidence issues, will consider quitting school before high school graduation, will pursue less education, and ultimately will have a lower-paying job which will trickle down to hardships for his/her future family. It’s an ugly picture.
“When I learned all of this I felt disheartened. And, then I felt hopeful because Readers 2 Leaders is helping to change this story, one Dallas student at a time.
“Through after school programming, R2L provides hands-on, effective training and curriculum for students that accelerates their reading skills. The team at R2L knows education, they know kids, and their science-based approach to teaching reading is a game changer. In fact, kids in R2L’s after school programs gain 12 months of reading skills in 8 months. Wow, right? They accelerate learning for kids. And, this is happening for Dallas students in underserved areas. They’re focusing on kids who need it the most.
“Well, I jumped in the saddle with Readers 2 Leaders and became a Reading Buddy. The R2L process is far beyond simply reading a book to a child. It’s a well-oiled-machine. Each week, I volunteer 1.5 hours of time and that means spending 30 minutes with 3 different children, one-on-one. We work on sight words (I didn’t even know that term before R2L), word segmenting, writing/spelling, reading books, reading strategies, and all the various ways our English language is tricky … like how these words are spelled differently but sound the same: to, too, two.
“One week, I worked with a student new to the R2L after school program. Her name was Elizabeth*. When you think of her, I want you to think of a smiley little 4th grade girl who wore pink and glitter most every time I saw her. She was well-liked and popular. When we started our work, I noticed that the lessons we were assigned seemed a little elementary for her age. Boy was I wrong. She struggled so much, with simple sight words like ‘they’ and ‘know’. When she would get one wrong, she was so sad and would emotionally check out. She knew she was behind. This was hard for her. Really hard.
“I helped Elizabeth learn how to push through her emotions and stick with me in the learning process. She taught me as much as I taught her. And, you know why it was so hard for her? Remember what school grade she was in? 4th. Well, when she came to R2L, she was reading at a kindergarten level. Let that sink in.
“But … Readers 2 Leaders came to the rescue for Elizabeth! Today, after being in the program only 8 months, Elizabeth is reading at a 1st grade level. She’s not where she needs to be, but she is beating the odds and is on a trajectory to catch-up. R2L is her accelerator!
“My wish: for Dallas students in our most underserved areas to have exceptional reading skills so they have great confidence, a strong education, bright future career opportunities, and become amazing future leaders and contributors in Dallas.
“Here’s how you can help: invest in accelerating kids through Readers 2 Leaders. With your help, we can reach more kids! I’m now on the Board with R2L, so my pronoun has shifted from “they” to “we”. We need more help from our Dallas community — financial help and volunteer help. By contributing to R2L, you become our partner in helping us make life better for Dallas students like Elizabeth. She needs you, and we do, too.
“This holiday season, invest in the lives of Dallas students and make a donation or consider signing up to become a Reading Buddy. Reach out to [email protected] with questions or visit us on Facebook.
* Name changed to protect identity of student. * Graphic/photo provided by Readers 2 Leaders