NEW PALESTINE — Chase Williamson sat at his desk with a smile on his face, reading the story on his iPad.

Janet Bradbury, a retired Harris Elementary third-grade teacher, sat beside Chase, a third-grader at New Palestine Elementary School, ready to guide him through the story should he get stuck on a word or stumble through a phrase.

Bradbury is one of the volunteer mentors participating in the school’s new literacy program — Helping One Student Succeed, or HOSTS for short.

The program, which meets for an hour each day, targets children who have fallen behind in their reading development; those students work with volunteer tutors during reading class. Community members spend an hour at the school working one on one with HOSTS participants, listening to them read aloud and helping them develop better reading and vocabulary skills. About 15 second- and third-graders who struggle with reading attend the program each day.

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Educators hope the individualized teaching method will motivate students and better prepare them for the IRead-3, the state reading comprehension test students must pass to move on to fourth grade.

School leaders want to add more students to the program, but they need additional volunteers to do so; there are 38 volunteers on the current roster.

New Palestine Elementary doesn’t qualify for federal Title I funding, which funds staff members to help students who are struggling academically, leaving the district to rely on volunteers to offer the program, school officials say.

Volunteers say they’re happy to spend a little extra time with the children. The program gives students the extra attention they need to be successful at a stage when learning to read provides the foundation for their education, Bradbury said.

“It’s the one-on-one attention some young readers need, a chance to talk with someone while they’re learning,” Bradbury said. “It’s important for them to know somebody cares, and we show that we’re right there.”

Research supports the notion that individualized tutoring makes an impact on students, particularly those who have fallen behind, educators said.

The volunteer reading program has been coordinated by former first-grade teacher Kendra Olin.

Superintendent Lisa Lantrip feels the program is a worthy cause, noting that even an hour of one-to-one reading instruction per day can help the struggling reader make strides.

Olin echoed those sentiments, saying she’s already seen a difference with some students.

“I had one little boy say to his mentor just today, ‘Can we go on and read another story?'” she said. “This is what we want.”

Love to read?

New Palestine Elementary School seeks volunteers to help students develop their reading and vocabulary skills as part of a new literary program. Interested community members should contact Kendra Olin at kolin@newpal.k12.in.us or by calling 317-861-5287, ext. 156.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.