A book can transport a reader on a journey to another place and time but for many students in the East Valley, the journey of learning how to read can be difficult.
"85% of those students are English learners," explained ‘Read With Me’ volunteer, Penny Wrobel. For the past 13 years, hundreds of volunteers with ‘Read With Me’ work directly with teachers to further develop students’ reading and comprehension skills. "We send almost 600 volunteers a week out to 10 different schools, 9 of which are in the east county," said Wrobel.
‘Read With Me’ paid the Coachella Valley Unified School District to transport volunteers by school bus to the classrooms that needed them the most, until November. "The highway code said they could not use school buses to transport adults, volunteers, even though we were there helping the district," said Wrobel.
As expenses went up and volunteers went down, ‘Read With Me’ turned to the capitol for help. "We went to the assemblyman and explained the problem, he immediately said Oh, I grew up there, I know how important this is," said ‘Read With Me’ founder Roberta Klein. "It was a no brainer that if the law was something that was a problem, then let’s change it," said Assembly member Eduardo Garcia. Garcia’s unanimously approved ‘Transportation to Literacy’ bill is expected to soon be sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting a signature that enables more volunteers to connect with struggling readers.
"They don’t want to be called on; they switch to the back of the class; they’re embarrassed. So the ramifications of the ‘Read With Me’ program extends far beyond understanding how to read write and understand English," said Wrobel.
According to ‘Read With Me,’ since their program has began the graduation rate in the school district has climbed from 51% to 82%.
Find more information about the literacy program here.