Reading initiative in schools gaining momentum

Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:06 PM

A new reading initiative from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Vance County is promoting volunteerism in schools.

Craig Claudfelter, chairman of the Vance County NAACP’s education committee, said his committee wanted to encourage reading in the elementary schools.

“The NAACP supports education and so that is what we’ve got to do,” Claudfelter said.

A Vance County Schools policy requires volunteers who have not served in the schools before to undergo a screening process first.

Terri Hedrick, public information officer for the schools, said all new volunteers will need to complete paperwork at the school and submit a background check.

“They must be cleared before they can begin working,” Hedrick said, adding that the background check only takes a couple of days to process.

She said those interested in volunteering in third-grade classrooms should contact the counselors from each school, and those counselors will work with the teachers to identify which students need help.

“We have a lot of students who don’t have any reading material at home,” she said.

Hedrick said the teachers would work with volunteers to set up a schedule for how often they come into a school and read with kids.

“They want it to be a on a fairly regular basis, at least a couple times a month,” Hedrick said. “It would be great to get them in a few times a week, but not every one can make that time.”

The United Way of Vance County’s new campaign is also focused on reading in the elementary schools.

Michele Burgess, a member of the United Way board, said community volunteers can support the organization’s third-grade reading initiative by reading to an entire class or to children one-on-one. She said they can also donate books or sets of books to the classrooms for students to take home.

The organization also wants to assign third-grade students pen pals in the community to promote writing skills, she said.

“There are 26 third-grade classrooms in the county schools, and we would like to get a business sponsor for each third-grade class,” Burgess said.

The United Way is targeting third-graders because of the state’s new Read to Achieve program that is a component of the Excellent Public Schools Act of House Bill 950, which became law in July 2012 and went into effect this school year.

The new state reading program requires third-grade students read at or above grade level by the end of the third grade, as determined by their score on the state-approved standardized reading comprehension test.

Third-grade students who do not demonstrate reading proficiency this school year by scoring three or higher on the end of grade test can retake the end of grade test or the Read to Achieve test, according to the Excellent Public Schools Act of House Bill 950.

If those students still do not meet reading proficiency, they can take summer reading camp, which is defined by the law as an educational program outside the instructional calendar provided by the local school district to any student who does not demonstrate reading proficiency.

The law states some students who do not score proficient on the test can qualify for one of five “good cause exemptions.”

But students who do not qualify for an exemption and do not demonstrate proficiency after summer school, will not be promoted to the fourth grade in fall 2014.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.