Those of us who learned from books in early childhood, took them for granted. We couldn’t imagine a home without print material or parents who were unable to read to us. Yet, there were and still are youngsters in homes like that — with children failing in school before they even get there.
The fact is learning to read, beginning in infancy and toddlerhood, leads to learning nearly everything. But, children from impoverished homes will start school, on average 19 months behind, and few will ever catch up. Without help, many struggling readers in the 3rd grade will be dropouts before the 12th.
“Doctor” Seuss might prescribe positive intervention with (1) books and (2) guidance in reading the books in early elementary school. Actually, this prescription has been filled for 40,000 lucky children through the Foundation’s popular and successful Teen Trendsetters™ program.
In the program, teen mentors are paired with weekly with 1st, 2nd or 3rd graders who are six months or more behind in reading. Together they read and discuss chapters from science-based Brainstorm™, an age-appropriate, three-part curriculum, originally created with Scholastic for Teen Trendsetters. The mentees also can choose from a selection of books to begin their own libraries at home, collecting about 17 books each! Data-driven, Teen Trendsetters is self-evaluated for mid-course correction and externally to inform the following year’s program.
Quicker to grasp are these participant evaluations:
- Both mentors and mentees look forward to the experience each week, and both report increased self-esteem resulting from participation.
- Elementary students gain the equivalent of a year in reading ability.
- High school students have a 96 percent graduation rate, compared with 73 percent nationally. Many decide to become teachers.
Teen Trendsetters also emphasizes relevant mentor/mentee matching. Studies show mentor relationships that are ethnically and culturally relevant are far more meaningful and impactful to mentees.
All of the above benefits are realized on a minimal budget, comprising mostly the costs of training, reading materials, and a faculty advisor to oversee. While hundreds of thousands of elementary students need mentoring in reading, and we’re willing to expand beyond our current 4 states, we need a minimum number of 20 school sites in a state or a region and a threshold of funding to make expansion cost-effective.
If you would like to make a huge impact on current and future mentees’ lives, please click here to donate and/or if you’d like us to bring the program to your state, please follow the link to this form to submit information about your community. For more information about Teen Trendsetters please contact our staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becky Dyer, Executive Vice President, Programs