|Updated: 9/04/2012 10:15 pm
||Published: 9/04/2012 7:44 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Almost half of Central Arkansas 4th graders are reading below their grade level.
The Arkansas Campaign for Grade Level Reading is calling to action parents, teachers, and volunteers to help increase literacy rates.
At Sylvan Learning Center, with the help of a tutor, students get one on one attention to learn to read. That's the goal of the AR Kids Read program. Their campaign is to get students reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Charlie Conklin is the Executive Director of Nehemiah Network, part of the AR Kids Read initiative. Conklin says 65% of kids who don't read at grade level end up on welfare or in the prison system. "We need to do something about that, and it's really a community effort."
Susan Southerland is the Director of the Sylvan Learning Center in Little Rock. Southerland says it is in 4th grade when students come in for tutoring help. "Some 3rd and 4th graders are not even beginning readers."
Karen James is the Little Rock School District Early Childhood & Elementary Literacy Director. James says the Little Rock School District literacy rates are improving. "Nearly 70% of 4th graders are proficient. That's a 20% gain in the last 5 years. Our overall numbers are not as high as we would like, but the numbers definitely made a shift the last few years."
James tributes that success to the state’s Common Core Curriculum, and more individual attention, particularly for minorities. "Our biggest area of growth in 3rd to 5th grade has been in the groups that typically have been identified as under-performing."
Southerland says the solution to the literacy problem has to do with self confidence. "At Sylvan Learning Center we try to build that with the student, and develop that self confidence. Once they get that, they start to read more."
AR Kids Read is a collaborative community campaign asking people to volunteer to read to kids. The group is asking people to commit to a minimum of 30 minutes each week to help improve literacy rates. The goal is that by 2020, all Arkansas children will read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.
Volunteers who sign up to participate in the program are asked to serve for one semester and will be trained. So far, 100 volunteers have already been recruited.