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A Reading at Grade Level Literacy Initiative

Are you “all in” for AR Kids Read? We know who is! We are thrilled to have another Partner that is now
also a Sponsor! We would like to thank Fidelity Information Services (FIS) for their recent donation,
which was used to sponsor our spring workshop. The generous giving of their employees’ time, and
now of their financial resources, demonstrates their steadfast support of our program. With tutors at
both Franklin and McDermott, FIS is a Partner that decided it was best to let the employees choose a
school that was most convenient for them. It seems that this model is working for them as most, if not
all, of their tutors have been involved for multiple years. With a company as large as FIS, the interests
and options of its employees are quite varied. We’re happy to say that AR Kids Read is an organization
that they’ve chosen to fully support. Thanks again FIS!

Baseline Elementary recently opened a new Parent Resource Center in order to foster learning for their
students outside of the classroom and to encourage family engagement. 53% of Baseline’s student
body are English language learners, and there were no bilingual books or materials to help Spanish
speaking parents read with their children. The Baseline staff and AR Kids Read saw a problem that
needed to be addressed.

 

As part of the AR Kids Read book donation campaign with ArkansasGives, the team was able to
provide 70 books to the Baseline Elementary Parent Resource Center. Baseline Principal Katina Ray
said, “These books are such a welcome addition to our school, and will help parents who read with
their children that were not able to before.”

 

The children that saw the books for the first time were so happy. One student said, “I can finally read
with my mom.” Another student echoed that sentiment by saying, “I cannot wait to read these books
to my little sister.”

 

These books will allow a student and his or her family to experience the gift of reading together, and
both parent and student will be able to learn new things together. Baseline Literacy Specialist,
Denise Holley, noted, “These bilingual books will allow our students to share something special with
their parents.”

 

Reading is the key that can open so many doors, and our hope is that these books will allow the
Spanish speaking parents of Baseline students to share something special with their children. These
books will also benefit our 16 tutors at Baseline who work with English language learners on a weekly
basis.

AR Kids Read was pleased to present our program at the National Family Literacy Learning Summit held
in Houston, Texas March 16-18. It was an honor to be a part of such a noted group of presenters that
included The Barbara Bush Reading Foundation, Reading is Fundamental, Imagination Library,
metropolitan library systems, The Toyota Family Foundation, Department of Education and others.
All of the presenters’ spoke of the critical importance of reading, not only to learning and education, but
to helping families improve their standard of living and reach sustainable family incomes.

 

Those who attended the AR Kids Read session that learned about our effort were impressed that a
community could come together with a tutoring program that could reach as many students, schools
and families as we have. The collaborative effort and the relationship orientation of the AR Kids Read
program was consistent with all of the programs highlighted during the conference. It was encouraging
that many attendees representing smaller towns in Kentucky to cities such as Houston are interested
in discussing how we might assist them in similar programs for their communities.

 

The issue of reading and literacy is not an issue that affects only Central Arkansas but every community
in the nation. The hope is that a program like AR Kids Read dependent on collaborative community
efforts and built on relationships and engagement are having an impact and leading to a solution.

Do you like to play games? Do you enjoy “arts and crafts”? If you weren’t at our last tutor workshop, you
missed out on a lot of fun! With the help of PCSSD literacy specialists Renee Dawson, Kiffany Davis,
Jennifer Beasley and Nickey Nichols, we had a great time learning about ways to incorporate vocabulary,
phonics, comprehension and fluency with the students we tutor.

 

The four 20 minute sessions, along with a delicious lunch sponsored by Fidelity Information Services,
were time well spent. This hands-on workshop allowed everyone to participate in the games, activities
and ideas that will help engage the students as well as provide a fun and exciting way to improve their
reading skills. We even got to cut out our own sets of letters and words to use in our tutoring sessions.
At the end of the afternoon, we were provided with usable information and tools, as well as a great
resource to find even more ideas that can be implemented during tutoring times. To get your own
hands-on resources, go to www.FCRR.org where you can find grade-level specific tools and a lot of
great literacy information to help your students.

One day, one easy way to give: this is the theme for ArkansasGives, a one day online giving event in
Arkansas on April 2nd sponsored by the Arkansas Community Foundation. The goal is to increase
the impact of Arkansas nonprofits by donating to support their mission and to recognize the vital
work an organization is doing in the community. As a special incentive to give, each gift made through
ArkansasGives.org on April 2, 2015 will be matched with additional bonus dollars from the Arkansas
Community Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

 

AR Kids Read is participating in ArkansasGives, and is asking for your financial support on April 2nd.
You can help children reading below grade level by making a contribution to AR Kids Read on April 2nd
where 50% of your donation will supply books to area schools to be used by tutors and parents of
struggling readers. By giving online at ArkansasGives.org between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., your dollar
will be stretched to further support the efforts of parents and tutors to enable children towards enjoying
brighter future.

 

We kindly ask for your support of our mission on April 2nd. AR Kids Read is hoping to leverage the
power of caring individuals from the community to supply books and resources for children who do
not have access to materials otherwise. YOU can change this by giving to AR Kids Read online on
April 2nd! We thank each of you for supporting children reading below reading level, and are hoping
you will support our mission on ArkansasGives on April 2nd.

 

We hope you will challenge 6 of your friends to donate. This will be a really fun and easy way to help
with our fundraising efforts for 2015 as well as a perfect opportunity to introduce us to your friends
that might be interested in tutoring struggling readers. We encourage you to pass this message on!

On behalf of the board, I want to thank all of the financial supporters of AR Kids Read. We are truly
blessed to have individuals, companies, organizations and groups support the AR Kids Read effort.
We are honored that you trust us to use these funds to help children read at grade level, and in turn
to brighten the futures of the students, their families and our community.

 

The stewardship of these funds to support our 450+ tutors working with 43 schools to impact almost
1,000 students with our weekly tutoring sessions is paramount for us. These funds cover a wide
spectrum of expenses to help us accomplish our mission; from providing tutor training through multiple
training workshops to the production of training videos and resources, along with managing the
technology necessary to coordinate the more than 18,000 hours of tutoring at the various locations.

 

We are also pleased to apply these resources to the area of community awareness and advocacy of not
only the critical need to help children read at grade level, but also the opportunity that volunteers from
the community can make a clear impact on the future. It is our pleasure to support in all manners
possible our tutors and parents who help create relationships to enhance the students’ learning
environment.

 

We are pleased that in calendar 2014 we were successful in reaching our $150,000 budget through
your generous donations. We pride ourselves that our tutors enable us to impact so many students and
families on such a conservative budget. We look forward to sharing with you our hopes and dreams for
the future as we plan to expand to other communities and further engage our tutor efforts in
after-school and summer efforts.

 

We also want to make everyone aware of an opportunity to help increase any financial gifts to
AR Kids Read coming in April. AR Kids Read is a partner in the first annual Arkansas Gives campaign
to be held April 2, 2015. The Arkansas Community Foundation is supporting this statewide day of
online giving to participating non-profits offering a matching gift of $250,000 to be shared
proportionally by all non-profits receiving gifts online that day. What a wonderful opportunity to
leverage your giving to AR Kids Read. More to come as we approach April.

It is a wonderful to see a business rally around the cause of children’s literacy. To see the employees
of that business answer the call and make a commitment to children reading below grade level is truly
special. The employees of U.S. Bank that serve as AR Kids Read tutors are a shining example of how
committed individuals can help spread their passion to the next generation.

 

Sharon Ingram heard about the AR Kids Read tutoring program through a news story on a local TV
station. Ingram said, “I am glad I signed up to be a tutor. It has been truly fulfilling for me.” She quickly
passed that information along at her U.S. Bank office, “I was talking about my volunteering in a
leadership meeting…as part of my presentation.”

 

It is because of Ingram and her passion for children’s education that Lolita Montgomery also became an
AR Kids Read tutor. “Sharon spoke very highly of the program on numerous occasions…I had to get
involved.” Montgomery is thrilled about her decision to become an AR Kids Read tutor saying, “It is
something that I look forward to every week.”

 

Caleb Oyler developed a love for reading at an early age, and he knew he wanted to share that love with
children because of how it has changed his life. Oyler said helping struggling readers is a “gift to my soul.”

 

Ingram, Montgomery, and Oyler all agree that seeing the look on the students’ faces when they arrive and
the growth they see in the children is the most rewarding part of their experience. Oyler said, “I was
astounded by the light, hope, and good feeling I receive when I arrive to tutor.” This feeling was matched
by Montgomery who said, “I cannot begin to express how rewarding it is to see the look on a student’s
face as I enter the classroom.”

 

As stated by U.S. Bank Region President, Michael Shelley, “By investing in their passions for service and
sharing their talents, our employees work to make life better in the communities they call home.”

 

These three U.S. Bank employees have made a commitment to struggling readers in Central Arkansas, and
have seen their commitment rewarded in full through the growth and smile of a child.

This is the story about one tutor’s experience in his own words:

 

After some time in corporate America, I noticed that my current position as a Sales Representative left
me feeling unfulfilled. It was in this realization I remembered the joy I received working as a substitute
teacher- the pay was less than ideal, but the positive connections I developed with the students and
passion for their education were undeniable. This also reminded me of the times I volunteered with my
alumni association reading and tutoring elementary students, and the overwhelming joy I felt making a
difference in their lives.

 

It was the constellation of these experiences and the poignant quote by Maya Angelou, “When you learn,
teach. When you get, give” that solidified my passion for education. I have always been an inquisitive
individual that loves to learn. So when I heard about the AR Kids Read children’s literacy initiative
through the outreach pastor at my church (St. Mark Baptist), I knew that it would be a perfect opportunity
to enjoy doing something I love.

 

My experience with AR Kids Read so far has been nothing short of phenomenal. Being able to give a child
the building blocks that are at the foundation of being a great student is the opportunity of a lifetime. This
is so rewarding because you are able to unlock the potential of that student to go on and be anything they
can dream of.

 

It has been a complete joy working with the students I tutor. To see their understanding of reading
fundamentals grow and to ignite a joy they’ve never know through the different stories we read is an
amazing experience.

 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is what motivated me to begin tutoring. My passion for
education wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share that in some way that positively affected some student’s
life, and AR Kids Read is the perfect opportunity for me to embody the change our community so
desperately needs. To encourage that student that is having trouble learning to read and giving them the
tools to be successful.

The heart of the AR Kids Read program is the tutors, and we are always looking for ways to improve their
experience. Our recent reading comprehension workshop gave us the opportunity to survey the
experience of each tutor present during the fall semester. The results were not surprising!

 

We are striving to continue to both expand and increase the structure of our program. The responses
from the survey indicated that it is difficult to implement both of these goals simultaneously. The vast
majority of tutors indicated that they are enjoying the program and can see a difference being made in their
students. But, there remains a handful of areas that need addressing including the schools’ awareness and
understanding of the AR Kids Read tutoring model, and the expectations and responsibility of both the
teachers and tutors. One tutor noted, “Please make sure teachers understand & know what our role in the
classroom is, and are ready for us.”

 

To address the concerns reported in the survey, we have already begun to meet with each school contact
to solidify our relationship, improve our communication, and ensure that the  schools’ are keeping in line
with the true AR Kids Read tutoring model. Also, a recent survey was sent to all the school contacts and
each contact indicated they had the same concerns as the tutors. So, as the spring semester continues we
will be working diligently to address all the ideas, questions and concerns that we received from both tutors
and school personnel to make the tutor experience as worthwhile as possible.

 

As evidenced by these comments regarding their favorite part of tutoring, most if not all the tutors are
enjoying their time in the classroom.

 

• Making a difference. Watching the future grow. Seeing the glow in their eyes.
• Love kid’s enthusiasm of reading and willingness to learn.
• Seeing children grow and become confident in their reading skills.
• Love to get connected with kids.
• Bonding with the children. Watching their progress improve each session.
• The opportunity to share my passion for education and be a great role model for the students I tutor.
• I enjoy seeing the children grow and become more confident with their reading skills/comprehension.
• If I can make a difference in a child’s life, I feel good about what I’m doing.

 

As always, we recognize the overwhelming gift of time our tutors give our students. On behalf of those
students, as well as the AR Kids Read staff and Board of Directors, thank you!

The initial meeting of our new AR Kids Read Tutor Advisory Board was held on January 8th, and we
couldn’t be more excited about this group! Twenty tutors joined us for lunch and discussion around
their varying tutor experiences, how to better structure and improve the program, upcoming workshop
topics, and a possible summer book distribution. Their firsthand accounts of how the program is working
within the schools gives us valuable input as we continue to meet with each of the schools.

 

This group will meet two or three times a year in hopes of keeping the lines of communication open,
as well as looking for ways to improve our program. Check out the Advisory Board members
(and the school where they tutor). They represent a variety of schools on all three districts. We hope they’ll
be a great resource for us and other tutors, especially those in the same school.

 

Carmelita Burks – Indian Hills
Charlie Culbertson – Franklin
Nicole Ford – Warren Dupree, Tolleson
Christy Giglio – Romine
Gwendolyn Harper – Warren Dupree
Allyson Hodge – Carver
Catherine Hughes – Booker
Judith Hunt – Chicot
Sharon Ingram – 7th Street
Patricia King – Pike View
Ginny Kurrus – Terry
Linda Little – Baseline
Barbara Lunon – Amboy
Lolita Montgomery – Park Hill
Caleb Oyler – Lakewood
Brandon Scott – Bale
Lea Smolder – Carver
Barbara Spalding – Williams
Mary Dee Taylor – Williams
Jim Wohlleb – Franklin