When you were a child, where was your favorite place to read? Was it under an apple tree or beneath the covers at night using a flash light for illumination? Where ever that place may have been for you, there was nothing like a good book to read on a rainy summer day in your favorite cozy place. Reading permits children to explore worlds of fantasy that fires their imagination and what better place to read than at their favorite place. For me reading was an important part of my childhood. I can’t imagine my childhood without having read books written by great writers like Maud Hart Lovelace, Louisa May Alcott or Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Even though I loved to read as a child, I struggled with reading. I could read and comprehend what I read, but I was a shy child, and it was difficult for me to read aloud in class. I needed a tutor to help give me confidence, and for me that was my grandmother. Today with both parents working hard to bills, tutors from the community are needed to help fill any gaps and to inspire children to become lifelong readers, and that is where Generation Next is comes in.
Generation Next is patterned after the successful National Strive Together Network established in elementary schools in more than 20 large metropolitan cities across the country. In the first five years of implementation, Cincinnati has seen a 9 percent increase in kindergarten readiness, 11 percent increase in high school graduation, and 10 percent increase in college enrollment. Reading ability is fundamental for success in all three areas and that is why Generation Next is zooming in on the goal to boost reading and comprehension for elementary school children.
Test scores from 2014 indicate there is a lag in the ability for Twin Cities’ children to read with proficient comprehension. Only 39 percent of children read at grade level by the time they reach the 3rd grade. By 8th grade, only 42 percent read at their grade level. Graduation rates were even more disappointing — only 61 percent of high school students graduate. The greatest concern is for children of color because the statistics indicate only a shocking 31 percent of them graduate from high school. But not all the statistics have been negative; there have been some bright spots. Lucy Laney Elementary School students have demonstrated a 24 percent increase in proficiency, and students enrolled in Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) are outperforming their contemporaries in reading.
Generation Next, led by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, is recruiting 1,000 volunteers to tutor elementary children for at least one hour a week. With 17,000 children not reading at grade level it is critical that intervention begin immediately. Generation Next is in partnership with St. Paul School Foundation that is dedicated to bridge the achievement gap that children, especially minority children, might fall through. The St. Paul School Foundation has a track record for training amazing volunteers who will tutor children throughout the Twin Cities, including Camden.
General Mills has also partnered with Generation Next and First Book by donating 20,000 books to Literacy Tutoring Network. The books will pair with the children, who will receive them, and meet their cultural and individual needs. This is another example how Generation Next and their community and corporate partners are working together to bridge any academic gaps of Twin Cities children.
Reading allows children to tap into another world, another experience. Stephen King who writes fascinating books that draw his readers into a world that he creates, once said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” It is the magic of Harry Potter, the Wizard of Oz, and Charlie who wins the chance to romp through a chocolate factory, every child’s fantasy hero. The magic of reading a good book.
For info about this program or to volunteer visit gennextmsp.org.