Wednesdays are booked for select students in first and second grades at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School. It’s the day they meet with their Reading Partners to brush up on reading and vocabulary skills.
Reading Partners was started by former Superintendent of Schools James Richmond in the mid-1990s. The program is in all Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) elementary schools for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
At Higdon, the reading partners meet for 30 minutes, their time broken down in 10 minuteintervals. The first 10 minutes is spent on word work and site word recognition. The students spend the next 10 minutes reading books on their reading levels. The last 10 minutes sees the partner reading aloud to the student from a book above the child’s reading level.
Young readers who are part of the program are those who need just a bit more help, said Nichole Garner, reading resource teacher at Higdon. “They benefit from the connection with an adult reader,” she said.
The partners are paired up with the same person for half the year, then the students are reevaluated. During the second half of the year, a new group of students will be paired with each Reading Partner.
The program works, Garner said. With the help of their partners, students are excelling through their reading levels, she said. One student has jumped six reading levels thanks to the extra time spent reading with their partner. Others have advanced two or three levels, but every young reader is moving in the right direction, at their own pace.
“It’s fun,” Autumn Logue, a second grader, said of her time reading with June DeVito.
“It’s good because I get my reading levels up,” said second grader David Holt who is paired with Peggy Campbell. “I am reading a chapter book.”
“This program helps students gain confidence in their reading, provides wonderful role models for reading and gives students one-on-one time with someone who cares about them,” said Kim Hudler, lead reading specialist with CCPS.
“I know what a difference it can make to be exposed to reading,” said volunteer Wanda Pingitore, who taught adult education for 30 years. Her 6-year-old grandson is a strong reader thanks to the time she and his other grandmother spend reading with him.
“I’ve never seen a kid who has not progressed,” said Bruce McDonald, who has been involved with Reading Partners since 1996 when it started.
“It keeps us motivated to see the progress in the kids,” said Campbell who has been volunteering about 10 years and is active in the Ladies of Charity of Holy Ghost Church down the road from Higdon.
The volunteers are getting something out of the partnership, too. “Retirement is not what everyone makes it out to be,” Pingitore said. “You work all your life, then ‘What do I do now?’”
“It’s an hour,” McDonald said, dismissing naysayers who claim they don’t have the time to volunteer. “A lot of people are just sitting at home doing nothing.”
Countywide, there are about 75 Reading Partners. Those interested in signing up to volunteer with the group can contact the school they want to work with or call Hudler at 301-934-7361. A Reading Partner luncheon will be held in April.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.