Reading Heroes to the rescue

By Westley McGhee and Tina Jones
Staff Writers
The Southern Scoop
Southern High School

This story appeared originally in the Southern Scoop, the school newspaper of Southern High School which has partnered with the NECD Community VOICE.

Some Southern Spartans have decided to take part in a new program at Southern High School that has them reading to elementary students at Merrick Moore and Oak Grove elementary schools.

It’s set up to benefit both sides of the program equally.

Southern Scoop staff writer Westley McGhee. (Photo courtesy of the Southern Scoop)

“[It’s supposed to] promote reading culture and to serve the community,” said Virginia Shaffer, program reading specialist, about the initiative.

Students who volunteered to go traveled during second period to Merrick Moore and journalism students went to Oak Grove during their fourth period. Both trips occur weekly on Tuesdays.

“What happens at Merrick Moore is the third grade students read a book they’ve rehearsed and ask questions to the high school student,” said Shaffer. “Then the high school student reads the book they rehearsed and asks questions to the third grade student.”

At Oak Grove, students were paired to read a selected book to grades K-2.

Some students, such as senior Yaritza Vazquez, said they were glad to be a part of the event.

“I enjoyed it and how they have a smile on their faces when I’m done reading,” Vazquez said of her kindergarteners.

Because high school students seem to tend to focus on less important matters allowing their grades to suffer, this program gives reasons as to the origin of programs such as Reading Heroes.

“My past experiences with programs like this have proven effective to raise reading power in both sets of students,” Shaffer said.

For many people the thought probably wouldn’t cross their minds that an elementary school principal would seek out the help of high school students.

“I asked Mr. [Kenneth] Barnes [Southern High School principal] about the program and he said that the principal at Merrick Moore had already called and asked for a reading partnership,” Shaffer said.

There’s an answer in the program for uncertain students interested in joining Reading Heroes.

“I believe students will have satisfaction with helping younger students and raising reading enjoyment,” said Shaffer about future program benefits to high school students. “Enjoyment will cause more doing and have a life-long impact on success.”

Though teachers’ points of view are valuable, student reactions are equally important.

Ian Fleming, senior and football player at Southern High School said he enjoys reading to kids.

“The kids enjoyed themselves and the interaction with older students,” said Fleming.

Fleming also saw one key benefit to his participation.

“I think it will help me work well with kids if I were to jump in to something like that,” he said.

Senior Emoni Shannon also said she enjoyed reading to elementary kids.

“I look forward to going every Tuesday,” said Shannon. “It is a highlight of my Tuesday to go and read to the kids at Oak Grove Elementary School.”

Some students also made comparisons between the reading experience and their home lives while indicating that Shaffer may be right about the effect the program could have.

“I thought it was a great way  to get involved with the community,” said Aaliyah Campbell. “It felt like home reading to my little sister, something I was used to doing and liked.”

“It was no hassle to me,” she said.