We all know reading is an important life skill, and volunteers are trying to make it easier for students at area schools.
A study known as The Nation's Report Card found only a third of Iowa 4th graders were proficient or advanced readers last year. A program aims to help young readers, but the director says it needs two things to expand.
Fourth Grader Jordyn Troster says she looks forward to Tuesdays. She says, "Reading with Amanda."
Amanda Fletcher meets Jordyn for lunch at the Walnut Street School. For about an hour each week, they eat and they chat, but mostly they read. It's part of a program called Everybody Wins Iowa. Fletcher is the Executive Director. She says, "Our whole goal is to increase children's success in school by providing reading and mentoring experiences with caring volunteers."
Everybody Wins has been in Iowa for 11 years. 420 volunteers, like Penni Miller, spend about an hour a week reading to kids. Miller says, "Just an opportunity to give back. My daughter is actually a participant in the program with the 5th grade group here at this school. And, so I saw all the progress she was able to make to improve her reading skills, and so then I decided I would also participate with another student."
Fletcher says volunteers read more than 7,000 books last year. She says they'll read more this year. But, the program is about more than just reading. She says, "People are really serving as role models for these students. And, you'll hear them talk about their day at work. You'll hear students share about their families at home, and obviously that's over a good book."
Fletcher says the program currently serves 18 central Iowa schools and two organizations. To expand, Fletcher says they would need more funding. She says, "It costs about $5,000 to serve 20 to 30 matches at a school." Fletcher says that money covers background checks for volunteers, a school coordinator and a book cart. But, she says the biggest need is more volunteers. She says, "Even in the schools we're at currently, we could serve up to 200 more children in the rooms and the space, and the time frames we already have."
And, Fletcher says all it takes is an hour a week and a love of reading.
Fletcher says they look for grants, along with local business and individual donations when schools are interested. Volunteers can sign up here.