Nearly 50 rising 1st-3rd graders with low reading scores have been participating this summer in Lincoln County’s second annual Y Readers program at Iron Station Elementary School.
Last year, YMCA of Greater Charlotte brought the program to the area based on the nearness of the county’s two YMCA facilities, one each in Lincolnton and Denver, along with student diversity and population size, organization officials said.
The six-week long program, offered four days a week at nine other area sites throughout the Charlotte region, is free and funded solely on donations and grants.
According to Mary Ann Edwards, YMCA of Greater Charlotte’s community vice president, $25,000 in program funding stems from fundraising efforts done by the Lincoln County and Sally’s YMCA while $30,000 stems from Greater Charlotte donations. Funding for the program was also provided by the United Way of Lincoln County.
At roughly $1,200 to $1,300 per student, the program is costly but provides numerous items for the children including food, books, professional instruction, hands-on kits, transportation and more.
Through Y Readers, students not only improve their reading skills by two to three levels on average but also participate in field trips and a variety of activities during afternoon “camp” sessions which incorporate art, music, science and swimming.
Because students typically lose nearly two reading levels during summer vacation, the program keeps below-grade-level readers from back sliding even further behind their classmates, even propelling some ahead of their peers at the start of the next school year.
Each day, the students gather for breakfast, and through singing, dancing and “finger-play,” celebrate the week’s theme, which always falls under the program’s overarching theme of “Reading Takes You Places.”
Next, students divide up into classrooms by grade level, engaging in exercises for writing and guided and independent reading.
Students then meet again for lunch before working in learning-based centers. Finally, camp time concludes the day.
“They are a happy group of kids with high energy,” Mary Beth Avery, North Lincoln Middle School’s assistant principal of curriculum, said.
Avery is one of six certified Lincoln County teachers involved with the program. Additional county employees and older students assist with camp activities, she said.
While each day is filled with reading opportunities, teachers expect learning to continue at home in the evenings, requiring at least 30 minutes with a magazine, book or other reading material.
For Iron Station Elementary School’s rising 1st-grader Madison Dellinger, reading time at home takes place with her mother and younger sister.
Dellinger said each night she helps her mother read a bed-time story to her younger sister.
While the number of Lincoln County children involved with Y Readers has doubled since last year, increasing from 24 to 48, resources are not yet in place to provide for every 1st-3rd grader in the county who doesn’t read on grade level.
County school professionals choose students based on educational and financial need, YMCA officials said.
Currently, all students enrolled in the program attend Iron Station or Catawba Springs Elementary, including 7-year-old Sean Jackson, a rising 1st-grader who is in his second year with Y Readers.
His father, Cedric Jackson of Denver, was amazed at his son’s growth in such a short amount of time and continues to be shocked by the number of difficult words Sean can read.
“You can definitely see the difference as far as academics go,” he said. “He’s more involved now, and he likes to read.”
The proud father also gushed about the program, calling it the “perfect” curriculum to keep students “sharp” in the summer.
Avery’s passion for Y Readers is similar, based on her strong belief that it truly works.
“I’m dedicated,” she said. “I believe in it.”
Avery and the program’s other teachers work to interact and learn about the children in a personal way.
She said she will never forget watching 8-year-old Terrell Phinx, a rising third-grader, experience one of the most exciting adventures of his life — seeing a pool and swimming in it for the first time.
Through the Y Readers program, Phinx was given an opportunity he never had beforehand.
On Aug. 1, students will receive certificates for completing the program in a special ceremony for parents, teachers and friends called “End of Summer Celebration.”
All 48 children have prepared a special song with hand motions to perform at the event.
Avery said the song was chosen for its encouraging and Christian-based message, reminding students to “stand strong” when struggling with reading and to “lean on God” because He “lives in you.”
Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sherry Hoyle had nothing but positive remarks for the program Wednesday during a special media tour.
“It’s another opportunity in creating possibilities for our kids,” she said.
For more information on donating to or volunteering with the Lincoln County Y Readers program, contact Hillary Brodofsky at (704) 716-7300 or Hillary.firstname.lastname@example.org or Bart Cape at (704) 716-4522 or email@example.com.