It is with great pleasure that we report on the operations of Learning Help Centers of Charlotte and most importantly the invaluable contribution that reading tutors and volunteers are having daily on the lives of our children.
At Learning Help Centers of Charlotte we continue to provide scholastic, spiritual, and social supports to empower at-risk families to lift themselves out of generational poverty. We also do this with dignity and respect for those we serve.
For the sixth year, we are engaging at-risk families through weekly homework support, mentoring and annual summer enrichment camps for children, mentoring and crises interventions for parents, and family enrichment events, all of which strive to educate and empower parents and children to become community leaders.
Many not-for-profit organizations who serve children focus on improving literacy and educational outcomes. One of our goals in 2018 is to build trust with those we serve, so that families feel appreciated and empowered to offer inputs on the needs of their family and the community-at-large. We have learned that one of the most critically important components of any proposed intervention effort is to build trust through authentic engagement. This differentiation sets LHCC apart from many other non-profit organizations.
What’s at stake in the battle for top results among young readers? Is low-tech teaching the answer to achieving excellent results? Or is the introduction of technology for new readers the answer? Would kindergarten through 5th grade students test better if they were reading on a familiar e-book or i-pad tablet, or is a good ol’ traditional paperback book the preferred reading medium for success? We see the high value contribution of reading tutors in the advancement of young students reading abilities, without the intervention of technology, which has not proven to be the silver bullet in improving reading proficiency in elementary schools.
On the one hand, there is the typical elementary school classroom with 25 or so children and an ambitious, hard-working teacher. Perhaps a teaching assistant to lend a hand. Maybe a few weekly reading volunteers for an hour for those reading below grade level. Reading to the entire class works well, but what about the whole class reading to the teacher? There are books galore, but not enough eyes and ears to help every child read. One or two teachers cannot adequately support the needs of every child when it comes to reading, especially when some children need extra attention. Over the past decade, technology has been introduced into classrooms. Was this a means to stimulate interactive engagement by students in a technology saturated world, or to make the job of the teacher in conducting reading assessments and grading easier?
On the other hand, there is our literacy-focused non-profit organization, offering weekly dedicated reading intervention with 25 or so children, who amongst other things, need extra reading help. If this organization is fortunate, there are willing volunteers with a passion to help struggling readers and make a real difference. Reading tutors are willing to provide individualized attention to their student on a consistent basis. One tutor per student is ideal. Tutors serve selflessly, seeking to make reading fun and to hopefully ignite the fire of a love for reading in each and every young reader. No technology in sight. No reading app for self-paced, on-line interactive reading.
Intervention at a young age is key. If youngsters can recite the alphabet, write their name and count to 100 by the time they enter kindergarten, they are off to a tremendous start. This is unfortunately not the case for many children. English may not be spoken at home. Who is equipped to help at home and encourage children to read in grades K, 1, 2 and beyond? In addition, the stakes get a little higher in third grade when students start taking EOG’s for reading and math. Young students pass the reading test, or run the gauntlet of retesting, summer crunch catch-up and potentially a redo of grade 3.
Technology definitely has its place, but it’s not in elementary classrooms where the main focus is reading. While technology may appear to make teachers more efficient with grading assessments and tests, children have been shown to perform better without another cool gadget or interactive reading app.
Ever-improving devices and a greater variety of software seem to promise better results, “however, nowhere can we find any actual correlation between technology in the classroom and the increase in test scores”, says Andrew Pudewa of IEW, after reviewing the latest research. “In fact, the reverse seems to be true, and it has been for well over a decade”, a 2003 study, The Flickering Mind: Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology cites numerous examples of an inverse relationship between technology in the classroom and basic reading, writing and math skills. This study found some of the highest levels of competency in schools with zero technology, and the lowest levels of ability in technology-filled magnet schools.
When we have volunteers during our weekday and summer reading programs, we engage them in valuable intervention time with our readers. We let the student pick their own, fun chapter books. We engage tutors by asking lots of questions about the story. “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, or “Dr Seuss” are usually popular choices. Fairy tales, or books with violence or expletives are no good choices, so we don’t offer these choices. These kinds of literature can surely ruin precious minds, and the negativity found in these types of books unravels the good we try to instill in our students every day. Talk… or reading is cheap. They are encouraged to put the good they read about into practice: how to model respect and kindness towards others and embrace diversity. These are just some of the takeaways. Basically, we try to recognize the good and avoid ill-intent, so that children grow and truly benefit from their reading experience.
We love our reading buddies (aka life navigators and volunteers), just as much as we love and care for our children. The world is a richer place because of volunteers who are willing to make a difference by helping children get a good education … and learn to read. Elementary schools therefore could benefit from volunteers who are prepared to assist teachers by spending an hour per week with a child who needs that personalized encouragement. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) have estimated that over 22,000 students from grades kindergarten through third grade could benefit from additional reading intervention. This is also confirmed by the fact that the composite proficiency score for grades 3 through 8 rose to only 58 percent in the 2015-2016 school year. If school hours are time prohibitive, then there is an after-school program like ours that could benefit from your time, energy, and mentoring talents.
Should the reader be wondering which school needs help, it’s an easy answer. The one closest to where they reside, or where their church has a partnership. We’re making a difference for families and changing the trajectory of their children’s lives through education and upward mobility. One child at a time …
If you wish to join us on this journey, we welcome your partnership and support. We also appreciate your time and talents, as well as financial support to enable us to fulfill our mission, to repair race relations, foster trust and kindness, and to reach the least and the lost in our city.
Thank-you for your commitment to our mission!
Brent Morris – Executive Director April 10, 2018