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Wanted: MORE reading mentors

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By MORGAN MANNS
STAFF WRITER

Fostoria Intermediate Elementary School is looking for MORE adults to mentor in a reading intervention program for students.
For the past six years, FIES has been working with students to increase their reading levels and build their confidence through Project MORE (Mentoring in Ohio for Reading Excellence).
While approximately 105 students in grades 3-6 participate in the program, officials say there is a need for adult mentors to work one-on-one with the students and allow for more students to be mentored.
“The more volunteers I can pull, the more students who can be mentored,” program Coordinator Pam Berrier said, explaining there is a waiting list of students who could benefit from the program. “I just don’t have the manpower.”
As of Tuesday, approximately 25 adult community members are serving as mentors, a number Berrier said she would like to double.
Project MORE is an evidence-based volunteer reading mentoring project for students who are behind in reading, according to its website. The program seeks to help every student maximize their reading potential, no matter their ability level.
FIES began offering the program six years ago under Berrier’s coordination. Prior to that, the program was offered at Field Elementary School on a smaller scale, organized by special education staff.
Project MORE works on fluency, which is the ability to read text accurately, quickly and with expression, providing a bridge between word recognition and comprehension; and comprehension, which is the understanding and interpretation of what is read.
“The adults are really good with the kids. They’re positive and they engage them and the students really look forward to it,” Berrier said, adding she carefully pairs up the mentees with the mentors. “We just need more of them to help these students progress.”
Students meet for 30 minutes four times a week between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at FIES.
Broken into two parts, each session has the student first read and reread an excerpt from a book — based on their reading level — aloud to the mentor and record their progress. Each book typically takes about four days to complete.
The second part of the session includes a graphic organizer and a quick check, which tests the student’s comprehension and ability to recall details of what they had read that day.
Berrier said students become natural readers by practicing. The idea is that as a student begins to read at a faster level, they devote less energy on the sounds of the words and more on the meaning of the words, increasing their comprehensive levels.
The goal is to increase the student’s reading level as well as their confidence.
“When kids come in here, you see their confidence grow, you see them progressing,” Berrier said. “They don’t see it on their own but they see it when they’re in here.”
Each student has a folder with their reading materials as well as a sheet where they track their growth.
Berrier used one student as an example who began their session reading 68 words per minute and ended the day reading 126 words per minute.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth in these students,” she said. “But the bigger reward is the relationships I’ve seen form between the students and adults. It brings more of the community in to see what’s going on and what we’re doing for our students and gets the students more involved in the community.”
Adult mentors must get a background check, which is paid for through a grant that also covers the costs of program supplies. Those interested in volunteering will meet with Berrier and go through a brief training before setting up a mentoring schedule. Mentors may be paired by student, day of the week or time of day and are welcome to mentor as often as their schedules allow.
For more information on how to volunteer, contact Berrier at 419-436-4125 or at pberrier@fostoriaschools.org.
In addition to adult mentors, about 90 students in grades 7-12 at Fostoria Junior/Senior High School volunteer during their study halls when they are caught up on their work; 30 students in grades 4-6 at FIES tutor in the morning before school starts; and 19 students in grades 6-8 at St. Wendelin Catholic School volunteer on Wednesdays for community service and outreach.
More than 150 schools across the state offer Project MORE to their students, the website indicates.
Other area participating schools include New Riegel Local School in Seneca County; Lakota Local School in Sandusky County; Elmwood Local Schools in Wood County; and Van Buren Local Schools in Hancock County.
For more information on Project MORE, visit http://www.ohioprojectmore.org/.

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