Assignment: Education – United Way program expands

Each year, teachers build relationships with their students, and they can usually count on one hand how often their little friends are not willing to play learning games.

For some students, the game is centered around reading.

“It’s time for me to play games,” said Molly Foster, Northside Elementary School third-grader.
Community members volunteer through United Way to take part in a program called Read to Success.

“We don’t expect any of them to be professional educators,” said Julie Nelson, United Way community engagement coordinator. “We don’t expect any of them to be professional social workers. We expect them to be a friend, for the most part.”

This gives the third-graders who take part in the program an opportunity to build a relationship with an adult.

“It’s once a week for an hour,” said United Way volunteer Chris Haskell. “So it’s not a lot of commitment.”

But the impact is big.

“The excitement that I’ve seen from my students about reading has grown tremendously,” said third-grade teacher Courtney Kirchner.

“It’s very rewarding to see that something we’re involved in really is making an impact on these kids,” said Nelson.

Through specially designed learning games, children work on concepts that are intended to improve comprehension, fluency and vocabulary.

“For about 17-20 minutes, they read the book, and then they play a 10-minute some type of fun, interactive game that involves cards or words or dice or wipe boards and markers and talking,” said Kirchner.

The tutor then works on reading skills and relationship-building with a second student.

“If the only thing that happens at the end of the year is that the kid loves to read just because they had such a good time with the tutor, then mission accomplished,” said Nelson.

The Read to Success program is in seven of the eight elementary schools in the La Crosse School District.

The La Farge and Caledonia school districts also adopted the program this year, along with Sparta and Tomah.

United Way is still looking for volunteers for this program.

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.