Coeur invests $75,000 in youth literacy

United Way, Coeur, JSD join forces to promote Volunteer Reading Tutor program

Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation announced its partnership in United Way’s reading tutor program with a donation of $75,000.

The United Way of Alaska, Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation and the Juneau School District have partnered on the Volunteer Reading Tutor program to help Juneau youth read at grade level by third grade.

“The contribution we made today is really the easy part of the effort,” Wayne Zigarlick, General Manager of Kensington Gold Mine. Volunteer tutors, he said, “those are the ones who will be making a difference.”

Coeur, owner of Kensington Gold Mine, announced its contribution to the effort at the Chamber of Commerce lunch lecture series at the Moose Lodge, Thursday.

Glenn Gelbrich superintendent of the Juneau School District said he believes Juneau is the perfect place to create a successful early childhood literacy program. He said he often hears conversations about the success of all of Juneau’s citizens.

“We appreciate it every time someone makes a contribution … by donating time, donating energy and doing as Coeur is doing today, donating serious resources,” Gelbrich said, “$75,000 is no small investment. Our job is now to make sure that that investment pays the highest possible dividend for children.”

Coeur’s contribution funds the Volunteer Reading Tutor program for three years and brings volunteer tutors into Juneau classrooms to help students reach their reading potential during the important years leading up to their third-grade year.

Children who have trouble reading at grade level often struggle in school and drop out as a result, Mary Becker, chair of United Way, said. While successful readers are likely to graduate on time and are better prepared to enter the work force, she said.

“United Way [of Southeast] places an emphasis on reading success,” Becker said. “[It] expects to see graduation rates increase, dropout rates decrease and substance abuse rates decrease.”

Without substantial help, poor readers in the third grade are poor readers in the ninth grade, Patty Newman director of teaching and learning for the Juneau School District said.

“Our six year olds, our first graders have a one in eight chance of catching up without extraordinary efforts,” Newman said. “Which is what we are all about today, those efforts.

The program is focused on Kindergarten, first and second grade students, Newman said. “Really intervene early.”

Volunteers are asked to spend 30 minutes, twice a week in the classroom working with young students who might need extra help with reading skills. Volunteers can count on a teacher in the room, Newman said. An instructional coach will be there to answer question, problem solve, coach and cheerlead, she said.

Tutors will received training to use Reading A to Z a literacy program designed for tutors (www.readinga-z.com).

The Volunteer tutor program, organized over the past six months, is scheduled to launch in mid-October.

President and CEO of United Way of Southeast Alaska, Wayne Stevens said the tutor program will supplement existing programs like the Association for the Education of Young Children Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The library provides books and reading tools for youth, birth to five years old.

“But not every newborn is signed up from the program and not every kindergartener is fully prepared to learn to read,” Stevens said. “We’re trying to pick up and follow through on those children who are not quite at those levels needed for entry to school.”

Stevens said these early childhood reading programs equate to better readers entering school. The first group, birth to five years, enrolled in the library program contributed to a spike of 10 percent in entry-level reading scores of those kindergarteners, he said.

For those interested in volunteering for the Volunteer Reading Tutor program visit the United Way’s Get Connected page on its website (www.unitedwayseak.org/activities/get-connected).

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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