Volunteers needed for award-winning literacy program - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Volunteers needed for award-winning literacy program

September 1st, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Volunteers needed for award-winning literacy program

By Colleen Sparks, Managing Editor

Volunteers are needed for an unusual and award-winning reading program that has helped boost reading levels among children in public housing and foster their love of the written word.

ASPIRE Read to Succeed, developed for kids ages 6 to 8 who live in Chandler public housing, received the Program Innovation of the Year award from the Arizona Chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials at its state conference in Phoenix last month.

City of Chandler public housing staff members saw children struggling with language and reading skills so they worked with the Housing Authority and Chandler Public Library to create a tutoring program to aid the children.

Children who were reading below a first-grade reading level and “deemed as at-risk” were eligible for the tutoring program, said Amy Jacobson, the authority’s housing and redevelopment manager.

Adult volunteers delivered the program twice a week for an hour at public housing sites.

The children answered questions and played games to build their vocabulary and other reading skills on apps they accessed on tablets that allowed them to learn at their own pace through a partnership with T-Mobile, Jacobson said.

They were tested with quizzes before they could move on to each next level in the curriculum. At the end of last school year, 11 children graduated and got free tablets.

Jacobson is happy the program got recognized.

“I’m just thrilled; considering this is the first year that we have implemented this program,” she said. “It’s really a benefit to the children in public housing in really making them hopefully better readers and elevate their literacy so they have the confidence really to do what they set out to do in life.”

Volunteers work with the children in the program in small groups.

“There’s really that attention those kids, really boosting their self-confidence, knowing even if they make a mistake they can continue to learn and feel comfortable,” Jacobson said, adding:

“Those tutors are instrumental in creating their self-confidence and their love of reading. The hope is after graduating, they continue with the program on their app. They can check out books through the public library based on their reading level and just continue through. They now feel comfortable using a tablet.”

More than 30 children originally registered for the ASPIRE Read to Succeed program.

Because several of them already tested as reading at or above first-grade level, a book club was created for them. They read books and talked about them at the Downtown Chandler Public Library with a volunteer/facilitator guiding them.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering to be a tutor for the ASPIRE Read to Succeed program may contact Deborah Burkett, recreation coordinator at the City of Chandler Housing and Redevelopment Office at 480-782-3244 or visit chandlerlibrary.org/volunteer-your-time.html.

It is expected to start Sept. 10 and run through the school year.