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Minnesota reading levels declining; Reading Corps aids students

BY SADIE JONES
jonessad@mnstate.edu

In Minnesota, approximately 15,000 elementary students preschool through third grade are reading at a below average proficiency.

Minnesota Reading Corps, a division of AmeriCorps founded in 2003, is trying to bring that statistic down.

Reading corps members use one-on-one data driven interactions with students to teach and reinforce five basic literacy skills:  picture naming, letter naming, rhyming, alliteration and letter sounds. Members are
divided into two different target groups, helping kids either pre-kindergarten or kindergarten through third grade.

“We’re trying to get (students) to be proficient readers by the end of third grade because, it’s said, up until third grade they are learning to read, and after third grade they are reading to learn,” Michelle Olson, a kindergarten through third grade member said.

Reading Corps draws members from several different groups including new graduates, retired teachers, those changing careers and parents wanting to become involved with their child’s school.

“This is a really great program because you really learn a lot about yourself,” Olson said. “You really get educated on what it’s like to be in a school environment.” Olson said.
Lindsey Ruth, a pre-kindergarten member, joined the Minnesota Reading Corps in August 2010 to gain experience in a classroom setting as she changed her career.

“I actually decided that I was going to go back to school for elementary education, so I started looking in the area for positions that would be related to education without having my degree,” Ruth said. “(Minnesota Reading Corps) gives you a lot of training and reading and assessments and interventions that you can use. And also you get the education award through AmeriCorps so I thought it would be a really good fit with what I was going to be doing.”

According to minnesotareadingcorps.org, during the 2008 – 2009 school year, the level of Pre-Kindergarten student growth for all five major areas was 41.9 percent for the Duluth, Moorhead, Grand Rapids, Metro, Rochester and St. Cloud regions.

“It’s a rewarding experience,” Ruth said. “I’ve enjoyed working with the kids and seeing their growth everyday has been a great experience. Everyday you’re in there you know you’re making a difference.”
For more information about the Minnesota Reading Corps, visit their website at www.minnesotareadingcorps.org.

To read more from this writer, view her blog at sadielizjones.blogspot.com

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