HOSTS mentors make a difference in children’s reading skills

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — You don’t have to be a teacher to make a difference in a child’s education.

Wayne Township schools are looking for volunteers to help kids practice reading.

It’s part of a program that started it’s 14th year this week.

The program is called HOSTS, which stands for “Help One Student to Succeed.”

The district believes the benefit is two-fold.

It engages those in the community who don’t have kids with the schools and it helps kids improve on their reading skills.

Class is in session for these Stout Field second and third graders and their new HOSTS mentors.

Thursday was the first time these students and volunteers met.

But volunteer Elizabeth Spencer is no stranger to these day one ice breakers.

“This is my 13th year,” she said.

She’s mentored more than two dozen kids in her time with the program.

On Thursday, she was excited to meet Jacob and help him pick out a book to read.

It’s the first step in a journey he will take this year, along with hundreds of other Wayne Township Schools elementary students.

“Our students oftentimes beg to be in the program because they hear how much fun it is,” HOSTS lead teacher Tammy Butts said.

When the kids meet with their mentor, they go through letter skills, practice pronunciation, and read through a book or poetry.

“This is an opportunity to be able to have them learn the comprehension and the vocabulary,” Spencer said.

Butts said that one-on-one time is extremely valuable in improving skills and ISTEP scores.

“We have great reading level gains,” she said. “We’ve had some students make 12 reading level gains in our program.”

Volunteers spend one hour a week at the school and they are paired with the same two students the whole year.

Spencer said seeing the kids’ progress first hand makes her time investment so rewarding.

“I’ve had a couple of them who were in tears because they didn’t know the word ‘you’ or couldn’t read ‘so’ and by the end of the year, they were just beaming because they could read and understand,” she said.

The program takes place across 11 Wayne Township elementary schools.

This is the first week, but they are still looking for volunteers.

They have about 1,000 spots to fill each year.

To become a mentor, call 317-988-8675 or click here.