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Become a community reader and inspire

Karl Clemens Elementary School is looking for community members to volunteer one hour a week to read with second-grade students and inspire them to love reading. All training is provided, and all volunteers are welcome. No experience is needed.

A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who were not proficient in reading by the end of third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 88% of students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in third grade.

Many students do not have the opportunity to read to an adult daily. This program provides them with that valuable reading time.

"Students look forward to their cherished reading time with their volunteers. Their confidence as readers greatly improves," said Academic Coach Tara Rojas.

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools Community Reading Project recruits and trains community members to become reading coaches for local second-grade students.

Volunteers attend a training session to learn the guided reading technique and then commit to one hour, one day a week of their choice and time, for at least one semester.

Semesters run from September to December and January to May.

"It can be any day of the week. We've done mornings in the past, but we are flexible on the time. We work with the volunteers around their schedules."

The selected students need more practice and someone to listen to them one-on-one to encourage them.

"They already have the basic reading skills; they just need that extra support."

During each visit, a volunteer coaches four students individually for 15 minutes. A different volunteer is in the classroom each day, ensuring daily guided practice for the selected students. Volunteers are supported by teachers.

During the 2013 program, the program had six volunteers, and eight students were able to participate. During the academic school year of 2016-2017, they expanded to 16 volunteers.

In the spring of 2020, schools were closed, and they had to suspend the program.

"We missed our community readers. This year, we can bring back some of our previous volunteers that have already committed, but we need to bring in some new volunteers as well," Rojas said.

Previous volunteers included mostly retired members of the community and some college students.

"Those students with beginning reading skills who need extra practice to continue to develop as readers are selected. These students read one-on-one with a volunteer for 15 minutes two to four days a week."

A former student who improved dramatically from reading three to 60 words per minute said, "Every time I messed up on a word, they helped me and told me to keep going. They told me I am getting to be a better reader."

Rojas said the experience for the volunteers also has a positive impact on them in that they get to see the student's progress.

"They say that it is a very rewarding experience."

For the students, "They love the special attention they receive from the volunteer and are always very proud of their progress."

Training will occur on Friday, Sept. 15, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Karl Clemens Elementary. To sign up or for more information, contact Tara Rojas at 661-758-7120 or [email protected].


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