Did you know only 40% of Berks County third graders are reading at grade level? Statistics like this one are why the Ready.Set.READ! (RSR) initiative is so important to our community. Managed by United Way of Berks County, RSR brings together schools, businesses, organizations, and individuals to improve early grade reading success. This initiative benefits children from birth to third grade through original programs like Star Readers and Growing Readers, as well as through national programs such as Abriendo Puertas, delivered by United Way partner Centro Hispano.
According to Ashley Chambers, United Way’s Senior VP of Community Impact, “There is a large focus on third grade reading levels because once students enter fourth grade, they are no longer learning to read, they are reading to learn.”
In the Spring of the 2020-2021 school year a virtual pilot, in partnership with Read Alliance, was implemented with select Olivet Boys and Girls Clubs. Read Alliance empowers elementary students through one-to-one tutoring with teens who are being compensated for their time. The pilot showed great potential, which encouraged United Way’s Ready.Set.READ! to continue the program this school year. The program currently has nearly 20 students from 10th and Penn Elementary and the Oakbrook Olivet Boys and Girls Club meeting in person.
The Oakbrook Olivet club is excited to continue to offer this program to their kids. The club views this program as a win-win, not only because the elementary students are empowered by strengthening their reading skills, but also because it helps the teens learn valuable skills for the workforce. Jafet Jaime, the Director of the Oakbrook Club, shared that he believes this program is valuable because “the elementary students are able to learn in a unique way. It’s not staff working with them, it’s their peers.” He continued, “Some of the teens working with them have been in the club since they were elementary students, and it is great to see them giving back and sharing skills they learned as Olivet kids.”
Roselyn, an Olivet teen who tutors, agrees that she is passing on what she has learned as an “Olivet Kid.” She said, “When I was younger, I had volunteers help me with my homework here at the club. It helped me develop the skills I have now, and I want to use them by giving back to the younger kids.”
The students and teens meet every Monday through Thursday and will continue meeting until mid-June. Christian Singleton, the club’s Assistant Director, noted, “I can already see a difference in the kids and their reading.” He said, “They are excited for it to be 4 pm – when the program begins – so they can meet with their teen and read.”
Ava, a second grader from Millmont Elementary shared, “I like coming because it helps me be a better reader. I’m getting better and moving closer to the green book (the last book of the program). I only have 3 more books to go!”
“Programs like Read Alliance are important to elementary students,” Chambers said, “because it helps us ensure that they are on their way to reading at grade level and ready for academic success.”
You can learn more about the work of Ready.Set.READ! and their partnership with Read Alliance on their website.