Learning to read — reading to learnSuccess is worth repeating, according to Sue Hellmers, literacy coach in the Hudson School District for kindergarten through second grades. Last year, Hellmers earned an Education Foundation grant to start a pilot program called the Literacy Connection in Houlton and North Hudson Elementary Schools.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
Success is worth repeating, according to Sue Hellmers, literacy coach in the Hudson School District for kindergarten through second grades.
Last year, Hellmers earned an Education Foundation grant to start a pilot program called the Literacy Connection in Houlton and North Hudson Elementary Schools.
“The feedback from parents, teachers and students was positive,” said Hellmers. “The program is designed to work with students who are below grade level in reading.” Since it works with the existing curriculum and is implemented by trained parent volunteers, there is minimal interruption of classroom time.
Last fall, the program was expanded to include all six elementary schools, with 45 volunteers working with 138 students in three grades: K-2. The grant paid for a set of books for each classroom, and parent volunteers were trained at each school.
“Early intervention is the key,” said Hellmers. “There is research now that says kids who are below grade level in elementary school have a hard time catching up in later grades.”
Volunteers, who commit four hours a week to the program, go to the classroom, pick up the student, along with a box that contains all of the student’s Literacy Connection materials and any additional books or comments from the classroom teacher. Together the volunteer and the student go to an area separate from the classroom.
During the 30-minute sessions, students work on both reading and writing skills that correlate with their classroom curriculum. The activities encompass all learning styles and may include reading out loud, sounding out the letters of the alphabet, drawing something related to a book they read, writing sentences, and going over lists of vocabulary words.
“As the year goes on, the students reach grade level,” said Hellmers. “The benefits of the program include one-on-one direct instruction, feedback from the teachers and the fact that the volunteers work with the children’s individual needs.”
According to Hudson Prairie volunteer Christine Nielson, “We just emphasize what they are doing in the classroom. It is so fun to see the light bulb go on when they realize they understand.”
It has proven to be so successful that 90 percent of the students return to their classroom at grade level.
“It has been fun to watch the progress the kindergartners make,” said Lyn Greene, who also volunteers at Hudson Prairie. “They come in learning how to read and they leave reading to learn. It is amazing. It is a great feeling to help. You get to know the kids and they get to know you. This half-hour gives them a chance to excel, grow and makes them more self-confident.”
Hellmers said the program has proven itself and complements other district activities such as the read-at-home program in which parents participate.