"Third-grade reading proficiency is the most important predictor of school success and high school graduation," said First Lady Ginger Beebe who spoke at the event. "This is the point where children move from learning to read to reading to learn. Therefore, the target audience for AR Kids Read will be second and third-grade children scoring below proficient on the state benchmark exam."
National studies indicate the fundamentals of effective reading are built in the earliest grades and support all subsequent reading achievement and learning. This is why reading competency by third grade is often viewed as a key-learning element.
To help recruit those volunteers, the initiative is building what they call "an engaged community" of organizations and individuals who commit to a one-hour training session and 30 minutes of volunteer time each week.
"We are encouraging church congregations, civic clubs, businesses, and everyone who wants to help support reading improvement for young children to be a part of this," said Dr. Fitz Hill, president of Arkansas Baptist College and a member of the AR Kids Read Advisory Council. "Because education of youth, especially K-5, is a foundational pillar of the community, we can't stress enough that this is a community effort. We can't meet the goal without the power of volunteers working together."
Those interested in volunteering for the program are asked to serve for one semester (approximately 12 weeks) in a participating elementary school. General volunteer schedule would coincide with the school year as follows:
AR Kids Read will utilize the Web-based "Meet the Need" software tool to register volunteers. Training and orientation for tutors will take place Sept. 1-Sept. 30 with tutors being in schools by Oct. 1.
Volunteers interested in participating can sign up at www.arkidsread.org. To date, 100 volunteers have already been recruited. Another 650 will be needed to meet the demand.
AR Kids Read is an initiative shared by the Nehemiah Network, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and central Arkansas civic clubs.