Volunteer Barry Macias, representing Macias Insurance Agency and the Alton School Board, reads with a second-grade student before school at East Elementary School in Alton.
The second-graders at East Elementary School in Alton literally are skipping into the gym each morning thanks to the attention and support from community members dedicated to literacy.
The adults refer to this as Reach Out and Read, but some of the students say they are meeting their Breakfast Book Buddies.
The spark for this project came from Steve Thompson, Alton Market President at CNB Bank and Trust. Thompson said he was motivated by an article highlighting the importance of literacy by third grade. Research shows students who are reading at grade level in third grade are more likely to succeed in college and career. Thompson approached the Alton School District to discuss student data and thus ensued a planning process for a before-school reading program serving second-grade East Elementary students. Thompson credits the district’s literacy coordinators, Elaine Kane and Rene Hart, with enthusiastically responding to his spark and creating the program, based on their knowledge of student needs and the school schedule.
Students arrive at school as early as 7:15 a.m., but class doesn’t start until 8 a.m. This leaves the students with time to eat breakfast and leisurely read books in the gym. This is a transitional time in the school day as students arrive by bus and parent transportation, and this is also a time that students are available without interrupting classroom instruction.
To maximize this early morning opportunity, community members volunteer 30 minutes each week to come in before school and listen to individual students read. The students have books in their backpacks they take home for practice, and the time before school is being used for additional practice. The idea is simple, but the impact on students is great, according to educators.
The group of community partners is expanding daily, thanks in large part to Thompson’s outreach efforts. Some volunteers come before work and some retirees come after they enjoy their morning coffee. Many adult readers are representatives from businesses such as CNB Bank and Trust, Alton Memorial Hospital, Liberty Bank, Macias Insurance Agency, The Bank of Edwardsville, Freer Auto Body and Simmons Hanly Conroy. Community-focused organizations are sponsoring time slots as well, such as Rotary, Alton Optimist, the village of Godfrey, Riverbend Growth Association and First Presbyterian Church.
In the first week of the program, some students skipped breakfast because they were so excited to get into the gym to read. In the literacy domain, that is a problem any educator or parent is happy to work out.
Volunteers who have 30 minutes each week to take part in this effort with students can contact Elaine Kane, email@example.com; or Rene Hart, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, call the Alton School District at (618) 433-7825.