HOUSTON – “B, bat, buh, C, cat, cuh,” were the sounds coming from the children’s reading room at the Houston Carnegie Lilbrary recently. Tekela Spraggins was leading the youngsters through sounding out the alphabet during the opening of the EARS program at the facility.
Spraggins was joined by several other teachers, active and retired, who volunteered their time this summer to help pre-school children get ready to enter the academic world this fall and help provide some extra remediation to elementary children who struggled during their first year of school.
The program began June 3 and will run through July 25 and over 35 children are currently taking part in the free assistance that comes through many volunteers.
Seeing a need
The Educational Awareness Resource Service program came about through two Houston ladies who saw a need for local children to prepare them for the changing world of academia.
Shenia K. Jones and Jackie Strong believe a foundation for education must be laid in early childhood for students to succeed, especially as curriculum requirements change. They quickly found allies to help facilitate a pre-kindergarten program.
“We wanted to do something to show the need for early education,” Jones said. “We started talking to each other and we happened to be at the library and Lisa (Mims, library manager) heard us talking about it. She said she had a teacher who wanted to help with a program.”
The ladies enlisted financial assistance through a Partners for Achieving Community Excellence grant and started looking around for more resources.
“Our lead teacher spoke up and said to do it here at the library,” Jones said. “The little ones would get used to the library and Lisa agreed.”
They sent out a call for volunteers to help teach children during the summer break and got excellent response.
Active teachers, Spraggins, Kierra Tumblin and Emily Townsend, were joined by teacher’s assistant, Audrey Virges, and retired educator, Cara Chisolm, who all committed to donate a good portion of their summer break to give young students an extra boost toward the coming school year.
“What do I have to do that’s more important?” Chisolm said of her donation of time and skills.
The instructors are assisted by youth volunteers including Charity Buggs, Kieonna Hammond and Ariola Gordillo who help pass out papers and facilitate bathroom breaks and snacks.
Answering the call
The children are split into groups determined by age and ability and the teachers spend the morning hours coaching them in literacy to prepare them for school. After the first week, they could already see progress and specific areas of need.
“Yes, there is a need definitely,” Virges said. “A couple of them only know their names and the alphabet but they can’t go any further than that.”
Education is moving at a faster pace than ever before and the instructors want their students to have a solid foundation for entering school.
“It’s easier to get behind, more now than even when I went to school,” Spraggins said. “You can’t just ‘touch and go.’ This has to be embedded.”
Alphabet, sight words, phonics and blends are only a few of the topics they are covering and hopefully the children will have a better start to their educational process after leaving the summer program.
Reaching out to service
None of the teachers, organizers or assistants who help with the program will receive compensation for their time, but they don’t mind. The call to volunteerism is being answered with willing hands and hearts.
“It’s a duty,” Tumblin said. “If you are qualified to help, you have to do it.”
“On the clock or off the clock, I’m a teacher,” Spraggins said.
Jones and Strong are no strangers to volunteerism and are pleased to see another generation joining in to help others.
“Without the volunteer teachers to commit the time, skills and knowledge, we could not do it,” Jones said of the EARS program. “It has been a joy to me to know that the little things you do could make a big difference in a kid’s life. I am so thankful the little that I can do will help someone else.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to foster students who are prepared to enter school and continue through to graduation.
“I want the community to take hold of this because every kid that finishes high school will make your community better,” Jones said. “I know some will say we need more than that but I say that’s a big start.”
The teachers are sharing the time and knowledge for a basic reason – to help where needed.
“If we help somone along the journey, our lives will not be in vain,” Virges said.
“You don’t have it just to sit on it,” Townsend added. “You have it to share it.”
Coming together for a cause
Community members saw a need and joined forces to provide a summer jump-start for children beginning school as well as remediation for first graders who needed an extra boost.
Many hands make for light work and several individuals and groups have played a part in forming the Educational Awareness Resource Service program in Houston.
Kierra Tumblin, instructor
Tekela Spraggins, instructor
Emily Townsend, instructor
Cara Chisolm, instructor
Audrey Virges, instructor
Katylynn Wright, instructor’s assistant
Charity Buggs, instructor’s assistant
Keionna Hammond, instructor’s assistant
Ariona Gordillo, instructor’s assistant.
Southern Foundation, meals and snacks
Jackie Strong, program organizer
Shenia K. Jones, program organizer
Lisa Mims, library manager