Kiwanis births new literacy program

Published 1:57 pm Saturday, April 16, 2022

A new reading and literacy program has come to Isle of Wight courtesy of the Smithfield Kiwanis Club.

“Isle Read” aims to “raise the literacy levels of our early-education students through one-on-one engagement utilizing vetted volunteers from our community,” said club President Teresa Frantz.

Frantz and past and future Kiwanis Presidents Steve Butkus and Wayne Willis met with Isle of Wight County Schools Reading and Literacy Coordinator Haley Cooprider, Smithfield Blackwater Library Branch Manager Terry Andrews, Christian Outreach Book Program-Food for Thought Coordinator Beth Butner and Luter YMCA Director Mary Cox to launch the initiative.  Kiwanis Division 13 Lt. Gov. Ken Surles-Law also participated to share his experience and expertise as he has helped launch similar programs on the Peninsula.

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Initially, the program was expected to be a funding and supplies effort for school and childcare reading areas, but after the first round of discussions, “it was identified that the real need lies in having the people to work with the children one-on-one, to give them the engagement time that is needed to really make a difference in their reading abilities,” Frantz said.

As the discussion progressed, the program developed into a countywide reading tutorship program with an initial focus on Hardy Elementary School kindergarten next school year.

“It should also be noted that the partnership nature of this collaborative initiative has already led to benefits to the schoolchildren this year,” Frantz said. “As coordinator for the COP Food for Thought Book program, Beth Butner saw the need in the schools for more books and collaborated with Haley Cooprider to make this happen. She has already started providing books for all the pre-kindergarten students throughout the county and will continue through the end of the school year with plans for more activity in the fall”.

The partners have begun to develop mentor training by Kiwanians and Library personnel and are looking into background checks through the YMCA for all program volunteers.

“Our next steps in preparing for a next school year kickoff are to look into mechanisms to use for recruiting, training and organizing volunteers for participation in the program, such as Google Calendar, Sign-Up, etc.,” Frantz said  “The main idea is to have an established process for recruiting, training and organizing community and civic group volunteers to have one-on-one engagement time with the identified students, at the schools.”

This program is geared toward young children who are having a hard time meeting the reading standards in schools.

“We have adopted the name ‘Isle Read’, as that is one of Haley Cooprider’s favorite hashtags and it has a nice ring to it,” Frantz said.

Civic organizations interested in partnering with Kiwanis on the initiative are encouraged to contact Frantz at