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Community members attend LOU Reads training

Special to the EAGLE

Last weekend members of the LOU community donated time to a good cause by attending the LOU Reads Literacy Leaders workshop.

Led by Angie Caldwell of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction, volunteers, future volunteers and leaders from local nonprofit organizations and schools, including UM students serving through the College Corps program, learned new skills to help them successfully tutor kindergarteners through third-graders in reading.

The LOU Reads Coalition is dedicated to ensuring that all children can read proficiently by third grade. Students who fail to reach this critical milestone often continue to struggle in the later grades and are more likely to drop out before earning a high school diploma.

To address challenges and support local schools in their work, United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County, the Lafayette County Literacy Council, the McLean Institute for Public Service & Community Engagement, and the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction co-convene the LOU Reads Coalition.

Kelli O’Reilly, who attended the Literacy Leaders training, described how she was moved into action when confronted by childhood illiteracy in our community.

“I volunteered at my daughter’s public school last year and I saw how many kids in the fifth and sixth grade cannot read,” she said. “And it’s appalling and it’s heart-breaking and I just need to find a way to be involved and to break the pattern of what is happening here. And so I saw this training coming up and I thought I need to do something and this was my first step in trying to change what’s happening.”

The Literacy Leaders program, funded by the United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County, is made possible through a partnership between the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction and the Lafayette County Literacy Council. Caldwell led volunteers through the LETRS ParaReading module developed by Voyager-Sopris. “Improving reading skills in our children is a priority,” said Caldwell. “Volunteers are a valuable resource for our community. The Literacy Leaders training helps prepare volunteers to be effective reading tutors. A knowledgeable tutor has the potential to strengthen children’s reading abilities.”

The training included information on the essentials of literacy development, as well as techniques for teaching key skills, delivering praise and encouragement, recognizing areas for student improvement, and responding to student errors, with an emphasis on building positive relationships with students.

Volunteers were encouraged to share their own experiences and to learn from one another, which Kathryn James, a College Corps tutor at Della Davidson Elementary, found particularly beneficial.

“I think that this training will really help me diversify the strategies that I use because different people talked about their experiences with different children and it has given me ideas about ways to better target literacy issues,” she said.

Local organizations are confident that this training has great potential to benefit their tutoring programs, said Amy Goodin, director of Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi.

“I really enjoyed the training and learned so much that can help the volunteers and students we have at the Boys and Girls Club,” she said. “Not only do I understand the process of learning to read and sounding out letters more but I also understand why students struggle sometimes and can use this knowledge to help and encourage our students.”