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Mentors volunteer to help kids in Wayne Township elementaries to read better

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Kids who may be struggling with reading comprehension in the Wayne Township district are getting an extra helping hand in their classrooms. It’s all through a special initiative they have started.

The HOSTS (Help One Student to Succeed) program brings in volunteer mentors from the community to read with 2nd and 3rd graders. For one hour each week for one day, they’re working with the same two students they’re paired up with for the school semester. The goal is to help students become better readers and get them right at or above reading grade level.

Lara Blomberg is one of the HOSTS lead teachers for Wayne Township. Over the years with the program she said she sees the improvement in reading level. The current students within the program at Bridgeport Elementary School are reading just below grade level. The program is geared toward helping them get that extra bump up for their grade for district test scores.

“We take students reading levels by giving them an assessment where they sit down with their teacher and read. Periodically, through the year the teacher sits down with them and measures their growth,” Blomberg said.

Blomberg said through the years she’s had students who have come into the program declaring that they didn’t like to read. By the end of one school year she had a student who had a favorite author after being a resistant reader. There’s students who need confident boosters from positive mentors and students who thrive better with one on one lessons.

“To help them become a better reader. Help them work to figure out those words. Help them talk about the books and think about them more deeply,” Blomberg said.

She said there’s way the program impacts the lives of students that go beyond just learning how to read at grade level. In building relationships with volunteer mentors, she said for children they can be like a second set of parents or grandparents. The program helps in way that can’t be measured.

“We’ve had students who have come back as high school students and tell us, ‘Hey! I’m going to become an airplane mechanic and it’s because of what I learned from my mentor and when he talked to me about airplanes when I was in 3rd grade. We know that it takes the whole community to help our students become all that they can be and that’s what the HOSTS program exemplifies,” Blomberg said.

Bridgeport principal, Alicia Harris said their HOSTS mentors are working alongside their amazing educators to genuinely make a difference and their students will feel the effects for a lifetime.

“At Bridgeport Elementary School and all of Wayne Township Schools, we are grateful to have so many wonderful HOSTS Mentors volunteer to meet with our students every day! The positive impact they have on our students stretches far beyond boosting literacy skills,” Harris said.

Lisa Burdine is the HOSTS instructor at Bridgeport.

On days when she’s instructing, she gathers information learned for the week with students to help incorporate into the program. Volunteer HOSTS will show up a before students to get the mini lesson on what students are working on academically for the school. Any new skills and reading focus is implimented through reading, playing reading card games and writing prompts.

“The thing I see the most is they enjoy reading and they start saying ‘Ms. Burdine, I want something else about Amelia Earhart or oh! Do you have anything else by this author?’ I just love that and I’m finding everything I can for them,” Burdine said.

She said the mentors are the heart of their program. Conprehension of stories and books improves when you have people who can bring something from outside of the classroom within for their lessons.

“My biggest goal is to get them to enjoy reading, and once you enjoy it everything is just so much easier,” Burdine said.

The district is always looking for volunteers for the program across the board for elementary schools.