Literacy program helps students become better readers

A literacy program sponsored by Route 66 Rotary Club, and aided by community volunteers, helps Cerbat Elementary School students become better readers.

The goal of the program is to get the student to read and comprehend reading material at a better achievement level, said Cerbat's principal, Roger Fuss.

"It is a win/win program for our school and the kids," Fuss said.

"I cannot say enough positive things about the experience and how it has helped kids with reading."

The program, which pairs one student with one adult volunteer tutor, helps students achieve their appropriate reading level, as well as increase the students' interest in reading.

Fuss said the idea for the program began in January 1999 after the Kingman Route 66 Rotary Club, of which he was a member, became aware of the need to help local students improve their reading and language skills.

"I suggested that we should do something for the younger pupils," he said.

"Some of the reading scores were not what they should be."

A similar program in Prescott convinced the Route 66 Rotary Club to try out the program at Cerbat, using volunteer tutors from the community.

The 40 students currently on the program come from three third-grade classrooms, two multi age classrooms (Big MAC) with third, fourth and fifth graders, and one "Little MAC," classroom consisting of second and third graders.

Students who have scored low in reading on the Stanford 9 achievement tests the previous year, or who score low on Title 1 testing done at the beginning of the school year, are included in the class, although other students who are average to good readers also benefit from the one on one tutoring.

The six teachers whose students participate in the reading program talk with volunteers to arrange a time once a week during school hours when the volunteer can visit the school to listen to the student read.

Volunteer tutor Jerry Ambrose meets with Kayla Zavala once a week.

"She was a good reader to start out with, but I have seen improvement during the year," Ambrose, a Route 66 Rotary Club member, said.

Ambrose and Kayla have an obvious rapport, and always spend a few minutes "just talking" before Kayla starts reading.

"It helps tremendously," said Kayla's third grade teacher, Deanna Klein.

"We can not thank these people enough.

He (Ambrose) does great.

She is one of our highest readers.

He has taught her to recall what she has read, to use inference skills, to use inflection and to pause at the right time."

Parents take an active role in the program.

They must give permission for the pupil to participate in the program and are asked to spend 30 minutes, twice a week, reading to their child to reinforce what they learned during the tutoring session.

"We educate parents on the importance of school, education and test scores," Fuss added.

"We look at the program every year to see where it will do the best."

Fuss said the program has really clicked with the pupils.

"They look forward to it.

They watch the clock until the time comes."

He said everyone involved in the program is feeling good about the results.

"We are looking for tutors for the fall 2002 semester that starts next August.

We have had volunteers from all walks of life – doctors, business people, construction workers," he said.

"The pupil gains reading skills and confidence while the tutor gains satisfaction that they are positively influencing a child's future."

School staff provides training for tutors, and school administration personnel, at no cost to the tutors, conduct background checks.

To volunteer as a reading tutor call Fuss at 757-5100.