STON – A community concerned about a new state requirement that all third graders must be able to read at a third grade level or fail has prompted Houston to graduate 32 kids from a summer reading program.
EARS (Educational Awareness Resource Service) hosted graduation ceremonies – complete with diplomas, ice cream and hotdogs – on the Chickasaw County Courthouse lawn Thursday night with teachers, assistants and city and county leaders in attendance.
“This was a good first start and I hope this is something we can do every summer,” said Alderman Shenia Jones. “These kids had fun this summer and we put together a group of teachers, volunteers and sponsors that made sure these kids learned something.”
Jones pointed out the summer reading program was led by certified teachers who had assistants who helped students. Students at risk or lagging behind were targeted and parents were urged to get involved, too.
Jones and Jackie Strong spearheaded EARS and rounded up the instructors and donors to make it happen.
“It was a lot of work getting it organized, getting teachers and getting sponsors,” said Strong. “But this community has a history of doing things that help our children. I want to thank everyone who gave their time or their money to this program. I know it has helped a lot of kids this summer.”
EARS was held in the Houston Carnegie Library Reading Room three days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EARS saw kids read to, learn words and reading skills, take part in reading games and fed a light snack.
“The buck stops in the third grade,” said Jones. “The new state requirement that third graders read on a third grade level or they don’t pass is a big hurdle for a lot of kids. We wanted to start these kids reading and have them ready well before the third grade.”
Houston Mayor Stacey Parker also thanked teachers, volunteers and sponsors of EARS.
“It’s tough to start something and I hope this community will continue this next year,” said Parker in speaking to the crowd. “I want to urge parents to follow up on this work. Shenia and Jackie had a vision and worked very hard to make this happen.
“Our community needed this and our kids deserved this,” he added. “We need more programs like this. We should never let our kids fall behind.”
EARS also thanked the Houston Carnegie Library and especially Lisa Mims for providing a location and rounding up reading volunteers for the kids.
Teacher Tekela Spraggins said studies show kids often fall behind in their reading level from three-months to a year over the summer break.
“If you have a child that is already behind in your class, you hate to see them go home for the summer because you know they are going to have a tougher time next fall,” said Spraggins. “This was not a baby-sitting program. We had lesson plans and a goal.”
Instructors were not paid and money raised went to resources used in the program. Houston’s summer feeding program helped fund lunches.
“I know EARS helped some of these children with their reading skills this summer,” said Spraggins. “You ask any teacher and they will tell you that’s why they do what they do. I was glad to be part of this.”
EARS 2014 teachers were Tekela Spraggins, Kierra Tumblin, Cara Chisolm, Emily Townsend, Audrey Virges and Mrs. Snow. Teacher assistants were Martha Hammond, Charity Buggs, Haley Petitt, Zareyah Williams, Katie Wright, Trinity Buggs and Ariona Gordillo.
For more information about helping or being involved in EARS, please call the Houston Carnegie Library at 456-3381