Posted by: Francis Koster Published: September 22, 2020

HELP Our Children Read – Focus Area: Basic Education and Literacy

Authored by Kevin Kendrick 

Published in Wheel of 7680 - Rotary Magazine August 2020


This has been a remarkable year, mostly for all the wrong reasons. But as challenging as it has been for all of us on differing levels, there are people who are likely having more challenges than we can imagine. Some of these are the students attending CMS Title 1 schools and in particular, our 2nd and 3rd grade students.

Here are a few facts:

  • 3rd grade reading proficiency is super-important. Educators say this is the point where most children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
  • According to a new report published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, "Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters," your child's reading proficiency by third grade has a direct correlation to his success in high school and beyond.
  • Students who are not reading well at the end of 3rd grade are three times more likely to drop out in high school.
  • Here’s a big one: according to the Casey Foundation report, 83% of all low-income students read below the proficiency level by the end of third grade. The numbers were higher than average for African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

I’m fairly certain none of us wants any child to fail and especially children who are already battling intransigence in economic mobility due to harsh economic conditions. But there really is something you can do to help, right now.

For the past three years, Jenny and I have tutored 3rd graders in reading, the last two years through Read Charlotte’s HELPS program at Sterling Elementary.

The HELPS program works. Check out these stats from 2018-2019 where HELPS provided tutoring to 155 students in ten schools:

  • The average CMS third grader who received HELPS 1:1 tutoring started in Fall 2018 reading 51 words correct per minute (WCPM)—a full year behind in reading fluency.
  • At the end of the school year, 46% of the third-grade students who received HELPS 1:1 tutoring exceeded national norms for expected growth in oral reading fluency.
  • Students who received the most HELPS tutoring sessions showed the most growth:

o Those who received 30 or more sessions closed 57% of the gap needed to get to 100 WCPM, the benchmark for on-level reading fluency at the end of third grade.

o Those who received 40 or more sessions closed 63% of the gap needed to get to 100 WCPM by the end of third grade.

o Those who received 50 or more sessions closed 75% of the gap needed to get to 100 WCPM by the end of third grade. This is a gain of slightly more than 11⁄2 grade levels.


These promising results happened in spite of two fall hurricanes, which closed schools for 5 days, and staggered HELPS Program start dates for participating schools—ranging from September to January.

The results in the 2019-2020 year, even though abbreviated, were just as impressive. 232 students received help through HELPS. 51% of 3rd graders exceeded expected growth and 60% of 2nd graders exceeded expectations. There is no question that HELPS is making a difference in the lives of these students and consequently, in their future.

Now, here’s the opportunity. HELPS is taking an aggressive position with tutoring this year, expanding to 12 Title 1 schools within CMS, potentially impacting as many as 600 students. It’s a Herculean effort but it must be done in light of how these kids have already been impacted. But we can’t do this without your help.

And here’s the easy part...helping is simple. You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home or office in order to positively impact lives. There is a 3.5-hour initial training block now available virtually and then after passing a required CMS background check, tutors choose a day and time (usually 30-45 minutes) every week where they can log into their computers and deliver tutoring sessions virtually.

Jenny and I hope you will consider signing up to become a difference-maker in the lives of some kids who need us and a little bit of our time to help them succeed.

Here’s a link to more information on the program and training dates:

Authored by Kevin Kendrick 

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Francis P. Koster Ed.D.

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