Developing Leaders By Cultivating Readers
Aurora Para has worked as a Reading Specialist in Aldine and Klein ISDs for 39 years. If you ask her about the importance of literacy, she will tell you the story of a second grader she remembers who could barely write his name and was struggling to progress. Aurora sent a letter to his parents to get permission to do some additional testing, and his dad came to the school to ask Aurora to explain the letter to him. That’s when she discovered that he couldn’t read or write either. He told her that he might not be able to read, but he wanted something better for his children.
A lot of children in our community face similar challenges. Their parents may not be able to help them with homework, either because they don’t have time or because they struggle with reading themselves. Some kids lack access to books at home so they don’t encounter word-rich environments until they start school. That is why we are excited to launch the Literacy Squad at Kaiser Elementary and Klenk Elementary this year. We piloted the program in the spring with 7 volunteer readers, and received an enthusiastic response from teachers and students alike. Members of the Literacy Squad commit to spend a total of 30 minutes a week during the school year reading one-on-one with two elementary students. With the support of volunteers like Aurora, our goal is to help kids become confident readers by the time they exit third grade. Research shows that the ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is one of the most important predictors of high school graduation and career success.
The Literacy Squad is a simple, fun way to make a big difference in the life of a child. The students in the program need a little encouragement, but aren’t struggling enough to qualify for extra services from the school. Just 15 minutes of one-on-one attention a week from a caring adult is all it takes to help a student go from struggling to reading confidently. Volunteers don’t need a background in education or experience working with children; they simply need to share their love of reading with them. The Literacy Squad not only gives kids confidence, it helps them discover that reading can be fun.
- Dr. Bret Champion, Superintendent of Klein ISD & Literacy Squad Volunteer