Houston ISD and community partners issued a call Thursday for 1,500 volunteers to join HISD’s Read Houston Read program, to mentor first-graders at more than 50 selected elementary schools as part of the district’s Literacy By 3 movement.
“All along, as we devised our master plan to attack this literacy crisis, we have said that this is not a problem that will be solved in the classroom or the school alone,” said Superintendent Terry Grier at the news conference at Garcia Elementary, one of the participating schools. “It is a community crisis, and the community’s help is needed to solve it. This is a very important — if not the most important — district initiative since I’ve been here.”
Read Houston Read volunteers can sign up for a weekly one-hour mentoring session at a school, where they will work with two first-graders in half-hour sessions — listening to them read, doing an activity related to the book, and reading another book to them.
An online, half-hour weekly session is also offered through Innovations for Learning and its TutorMate© program that allows anyone with a computer and Internet connection to become a mentor.
“That seems simple, but the personal involvement makes Read Houston Read a powerful weapon to eradicate illiteracy,” said Cindy Puryear, HISD’s literacy director. “We really believe that the combination of focused, personalized strategies in our schools and the commitment of volunteers through Read Houston Read will help us turn the corner on the literacy crisis in our city.”
Literacy By 3 launched with the start of school last week. It aims to have children reading on grade level by the end of Grade 3, and to help older students catch up with their reading skills. HISD has invested $8.5 million in school and classroom libraries at all elementary campuses and spent the summer training teachers in uniform literacy strategies that include guided reading, read-alouds, and independent reading — which will be personalized to each student.
Community partners represented at Thursday’s news conference included: The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, Children’s Museum of Houston, Phillips 66, Wayne Duddlesten Foundation, Neuhaus Education Center, Innovations in Learning, Urban League of Houston, Making It Better, Real Men Read, and the Houston Dynamo and Dash MLS soccer teams.
Brian Ching, former Dynamo star and current managing director of the Dash, made a pitch for volunteers based on his experience in building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Houston. “When you get out into Houston’s neighborhoods and meet families and children, you see the great need that exists, and how many forms poverty takes,” Ching said. “It involves the kind of housing people have, what food they eat, what jobs they hold, or whether they can find jobs, and what kind of opportunities they provide for their children.”
For more information about Read Houston Read or to start the application process, click here. All applicants will be screened through a background check.