Some children have more difficulty than others with literacy skills. For those who struggle with reading, access to direct and explicit literacy instruction is key. In fact, research shows that a structured literacy approach is the best practice for children who struggle with reading and is an approach that works to teach all children to read. From 2001 to 2015, the Augustine Literacy Project® trained volunteers to tutor low-income children with reading difficulties one-on-one. In 2014, the Winston-Salem chapter’s board expanded the group’s mission and added a new entity – READWS, which stands for “Read•Write•Spell.”
According to Marketing and Development Director Esharan Monroe-Johnson, READWS’ current mission is to “…reach, teach and advocate for struggling readers by training tutors, educators and parents to use the research-based best practices of a multisensory, structured literacy approach.”
“We focus on students who are at an economic disadvantage,” said Monroe-Johnson. “About 47% of the third graders in Forsyth County didn’t pass their end-of-grade reading exam last year. Unfortunately, children do not outgrow poor reading. Seventy-four percent of poor readers in third grade are still poor readers in ninth grade. Low literacy rates are linked to incarceration, teen pregnancy and economic instability.”
Monroe-Johnson shared other statistics, including:
- 48% of the children in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System can’t read proficiently.
- 3/5 of the children in our area are not college and career ready.
- Only 38.2% of African-American third graders and 32.8% of Hispanic third graders are reading proficiently, compared to 76.5% of Caucasian third graders.
“Forsyth County is experiencing a literacy crisis, and the achievement gap between white, black and Hispanic children is wide. In a time of innovation, expansion and growth, the most vulnerable groups in our city are being left behind and left out,” said Monroe-Johnson.
To help change these startling statistics, READWS does this through three programs.
“The Augustine Literacy Project® trains volunteers to tutor children and teenagers,” said Monroe-Johnson. “Our tutors provide direct and explicit literacy instruction to students twice a week for 45-60 minutes. Currently, there are more than 150 tutors serving students in 35 schools throughout Forsyth County. Next, we have the Reading Party. This is a parent education program that is a free, parent-oriented seminar. During this time, we teach simple and effective multi-sensory strategies to parents and their children in a fun, laid-back atmosphere. Lastly, we have our Educator Academy, where we sponsor free and low-cost training for educators using the Orton-Gillingham structured literacy approach. In summer 2017, we trained 58 educators from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.”
Children who are at least one grade level behind in reading and not already in the Exceptional Children (EC) program can participate in the Augustine Literacy Project®. Also, students who qualify for free or reduced lunch can take part. For the Reading Party program, all parents and their children ages four to six qualify, and all public-school educators in Forsyth County can partake in the Educator Academy.
READWS has had multiple achievements in helping students grow in their reading abilities. In the 2016-2017 school year, students grew 1.2 grade levels (on average) in reading skills, and 100% of the students improved in letters, digraphs and sight words. Monroe-Johnson mentioned that since the beginning of the educator training, more than 100 educators have been trained to provide effective literacy instruction for more than 1,800 students.
If you are interested in working with READWS, there are many ways you can help. Similar groups to READWS through the city, state and country can contact Monroe-Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org. To become a volunteer tutor with the Augustine Literacy Project ®, contact Deena Dreyfuss at email@example.com. To volunteer with the Reading Party, contact Monroe-Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org. To become a READWS Community Partner, contact Monroe-Johnson at the email above. Lastly, you can donate to READWS via the website: www.readws.org.
“Literacy is a game changer, and literacy skills are key predictors of future educational attainment and economic stability,” said Monroe-Johnson. “All children in our county deserve the opportunity to succeed.My favorite part about working at READWS is being a part of an organization that works to positively impact the lives of the most vulnerable children in our community by providing them with the necessary literacy skills to have a successful future.”
READWS is located at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 520 Summit Street in Winston-Salem. Call 336.723.4391, ext. 1509 or email email@example.com. Visit the website at www.readws.org. Be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.