Monday, December 11, 2000

Reading program graded highly




The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A formal evaluation of Gov. Bob Taft's $60 million statewide reading program isn't due for another two years, but teachers, students and volunteers already are giving OhioReads an A+.

        “It's a wonderful program,” said Denise Katz, a second-grade teacher at Pointview Elementary in suburban Westerville. “It gives the children the extra attention they probably wouldn't get otherwise.”

        “It helped me learn to read,” said Marissa Angellatta, 8, a Pointview second-grader. “It's fun. I hope I get books for Christmas.”

        Mr. Taft proposed the program, which aims to ensure every youngster can read by the fourth grade, in his 1998 gubernatorial campaign. The idea became the first law he signed in 1999.

        Since then, more than 13,000 people have volunteered to tutor students. And, more than 1,000 grants of as much as $60,000 were awarded to individual schools in all 88 counties. The money can be used for tutor training, materials, computer software, transportation of volunteers and students, and other related purposes.

        Mr. Taft told The Columbus Dispatch for a story published Sunday that he will ask the Legislature for money in his two-year budget proposal to renew the program.

        “The feedback I get from across the state is uniformly positive and enthusiastic,” he said.

        With 42 percent of fourth-grade students having failed the latest statewide reading proficiency tests, some Ohioans might question the effect of the fledgling program.

        “This may not bear fruit in a demonstrable way in the fourth- grade reading tests for several years. You're going to see a tremendous amount of improvement over time.”

        Some educators throughout the state say they're already seeing improvements as OhioReads enriches schoolchildren's lives while connecting communities and parents with the education system.

        “The kids were excited; they were on it; they were ready to go,” said Anita Coffey, program coordinator in Morgan County, which offered a $100,000 summer OhioReads program.

        And volunteers in the rural, Appalachian county are just as enthusiastic, she said.

        Ms. Coffey signed up the 450 tutors who range from seniors in high school to senior citizens, from bankers to auto mechanics, from clergy members to county commissioners. They tutor about 1,000 children weekly.

       



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