October 18, 2000
PSC STUDENTS HELPING PLYMOUTH READ
PLYMOUTH, N.H. — Wearing green “Volunteer” necklaces, four Plymouth State College students arrive at Plymouth Elementary School and head for a classroom near the school’s library. T.J. Grassi helps a 5th-grader confirm his assignments while Michelle Dalton, Norma Colby, and Maria Dimitros each choose tables where several children are already seated with their book bags and snacks. Papers begin to rustle, heads bow, pencils flick. Homework Club is now in session.
Michelle, Norma, Maria and T.J. are all part of the America Reads Challenge. Launched by the U.S. Department of Education in 1994, America Reads has one major objective: to have all children reading well and independently by the end of the third grade.
“Homework Club” at Plymouth Elementary School provides a structured homework environment for 4th- and 5th-graders, four days a week, after the regular school day. Teachers Michele Barry and Marsha Fairbrother take turns supervising Homework Club. “They have been absolutely wonderful,” says Barry. “The kids respond to them. The kids love that they’re college students … The parents love it.”
“It’s even better than we thought it would be,” says Margaret Salt, reading specialist at Plymouth Elementary and coordinator of literacy volunteers. “The help is much needed and appreciated.” She adds that Plymouth Elementary stresses reading as a priority and that the America Reads tutors fit right in to their existing system of community and parent volunteers.
Katherine Hilliard, director of Pease Public Library, says, “It’s been delightful!” PSC students join Story Time, which is offered twice a week by the library. The college students read to the younger children, and assist with teaching songs and art projects as well.
Michelle Dalton is in her second year with the program. “Last spring, reading to the children during Story Time at the library was a learning experience on being able to work with a small group of children,” Michelle says. This year, she is helping with Homework Club at Plymouth Elementary. “Especially at this age, the children really will connect with you as a mentor. Within this relationship, a great deal of respect can be built wherein the children will want to stay on track with their work if you are helping them.”
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Seventeen PSC students joined the America Reads Challenge program this semester, more than three times the number participating last year. All are education majors in either the early childhood or childhood studies programs, and all have taken both “Language Arts and Literature for Young Children” and “Teaching Literature for Children Across the Curriculum.” Chris Finefrock of PSC’s Financial Aid Office (which administers the America Reads program on campus) points out, “Although the major and courses are not required for student participation in this program, I think that it helps to increase the quality of student we are placing at the elementary school and library.”
Several organizations are cooperating to keep the program cost effective. The federal government pays 100% of work-study wages for the students (rather than the usual 75%). Like all workers in the elementary school, the PSC students need to meet security requirements: fingerprinting is being provided courtesy of the PSC Campus Police, and paperwork processing is being handled without charge by SAU 48.
For more information on the America Reads Challenge program at Plymouth State College, contact Chris Finefrock at (603) 535-2238.
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