Winn seeking 100 volunteers to help students improve their reading skills

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Kathryn Winn Primary is looking for 100 volunteers to take part in the school’s first Adopt-A-Classroom initiative. 

“One hundred volunteers from the community will give us one person per day, every day, for all 22 classrooms,” Principal Gerda Wise said. “We have already had some local businesses and organizations commit to sending one person each day to classrooms that they are adopting.”

Volunteers will work with students in a one-on-one setting during regular classroom instruction. The content is a phonics-based reading routine modeled on the “Sight Word Buster Volunteer Program.”  Since each volunteer works for one hour each week, it takes five volunteers to “adopt” the classroom.

“We are happy to have volunteers from beyond the school community,” Wise said. “It is going to take a real community effort to get 100 people volunteering on a regular basis.”

After volunteers are trained on the program, they will be able to start helping students, pending a background check.

A typical day for a volunteer will entail signing in at the front office of Kathryn Winn to receive a “Buster Badge” before moving to the adopted classroom.  The teacher will have an assigned spot where the volunteer will be able to sit down and have all materials within easy reach. The volunteer will have a list with the names of each student in the class. Starting at the top of the list, the volunteer will call students one at a time to the designated “Buster” area.

The sight word instruction requires the student to read words from a list. The volunteer will note words that the student quickly grasps and will help the student with words that he or she struggles with. After two minutes with one student, the volunteer will call the next student on the list.

“The goal of the Busters program is to increase students’ fluency,” Wise said. “Many students struggle with reading because they are constantly getting stuck on words. Reducing the number of words that trip students up will increase their fluency and automaticity.”

Fluency is strongly correlated with comprehension. In an article from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) titled “Listening to Children Read Aloud: Oral Fluency,” researchers found that students who were the most fluent in their reading showed the highest reading proficiency scores.

While “fluency” can be defined in many ways, NCES defines it as the “ease or ‘naturalness’ of reading.”

Students who constantly run into words that they struggle to read lack fluency, which causes problems with comprehension.

“When students struggle with reading comprehension, they struggle in all areas of school,” Wise said.  “It is very difficult for students to understand social studies content when they have problems reading the material. The same can be said for all of the other disciplines, including mathematics, which requires students to complete word problems.”

Through the Sight Word Busters program, volunteers can have a large impact on a student’s success.  Gains made in reading fluency in the early grades will help a student throughout his or her life.


Carl Roberts is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.