It turns out Dr. Seuss was right. After all, without books, how would we witness life in 18th century England or dream about magical worlds – or even imagine what a future without books might look like?
Unfortunately, more than 30 million people older than 16 can’t read, national statistics indicate. That’s 14 percent of the U.S. population, with 21 percent of adults reading below a fifth grade level. Even more startling, Literacy Partners states that another 63 million American adults who read at a fifth – eighth grade level cannot read or understand a basic news story.
Early Skills Essential
A popular saying among educators is “until third grade, a child learns to read. After third grade, a child reads to learn.” So ProMedica and some of its employee volunteers are teaming up with Toledo Public Schools (TPS) to help make sure area students are learning reading skills that will help them succeed throughout their school years and beyond.
Janet Van Nest, a senior executive assistant in ProMedica’s Community and Government Relations office, began tutoring first graders at Robinson Elementary about two years ago. For the 2013-14 school year, she is working with second grade students and helping them learn vocabulary words, as well as how those words can be used in sentences or in the context of a story.
It’s all about giving students some extra one-on-one time to help solidify their group learning in class, Van Nest said. She loves interacting with the youngsters, soaking up their energy and excitement, and helping them along their way.
“They are extremely enthusiastic and so very proud to share their knowledge with me,” Van Nest said. “Sometimes I think I get more out of it than they get from me.”
Investing in Kids
Havilland Miller, director of patient registration for metro-Toledo hospitals and ProMedica enterprise scheduling, echoed that sentiment when she talked about the rewards of watching a child learn and pick up concepts.
With nearly 20 years of tutoring experience, Miller is a volunteer reading tutor at McKinley Elementary. She is part of the school’s McKinley Mentors program, which partners adults with classrooms to serve as mentors for the students.
Miller said she attended inner city schools and has witnessed the decline in academic performance among children. By serving as a role model and communicating her values, Miller said, her time is a worthwhile investment.
“We need to remember to invest in these kids,” she said. “I really believe that those who have much have an obligation to help those who do not.”
Literacy and Health
In addition to employee volunteers, ProMedica’s commitment to improving literacy rates in local communities also includes funding for a recent Toledo-Lucas County Public Library initiative, Planting a Seed to Read. Its specially equipped Ready to Read van brings both library materials and parent education into targeted neighborhoods identified as most at risk for low literacy across the greater Toledo area.
ProMedica’s involvement stems from its work addressing the social determinants of health, which includes helping children grow and thrive so they may use their skills to be engaged and productive citizens. Literacy is a cornerstone for ensuring that success.
Many school districts in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, including TPS, are looking for adult volunteers to help students develop their reading and other academic skills.
If you’re interested in becoming a reading mentor, contact your local school district or visit Toledo’s Read for Literacy for other tutoring and volunteer opportunities.