Many Central Ohio third graders are at risk of repeating, if they cannot pass the state's new reading test. About a third of Columbus City School students might not meet the requirements of the so called third-grade reading guarantee. So the Columbus Metropolitan Library is going all out to help. WOSU's Sam Hendren reports.
It’s a few minutes before 4 p.m. on a Thursday and children gather inside the Hilltop library. They’re here to take part in the Reading Buddies program. Each child selects a book to read aloud to a library staffer or a volunteer.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Kathy Shahbodaghi oversees the Reading Buddies program.
"We’ve got about 50 books for the kids to select from," Shahbodaghi said. "Chameleons. There’s The Cat In The Hat, rhyming books, Junie B. Jones -- always popular with the third grade crowd."
Reading Buddies started here at the Hilltop branch last summer - before the first third grade reading assessment test in the fall. When the test results came in, Shahbodaghi said the library quickly expanded Reading Buddies to all 21 locations. She says improving third grade reading is the library’s “number one strategy.”
"Our goal is for every child to have a foundation for a successful life," she said. "And we are looking very closely at what the library can do to contribute to kindergarten readiness, third grade reading and high school graduation. And this is one of our very first initial efforts to focus and complement third grade reading."
The library has put many of its other initiatives and projects on hold while it focuses on improving third grade reading scores. It’s running reading programs in all ten school districts in its service area.
Nine-year-old third grader Madelyn reads to Hilltop librarian Linda Vanvickle. For 15 minutes, Vanvickle gently guides her through the more difficult passages.
Shahbodaghi says it’s difficult to gauge the effectiveness of Reading Buddies. But she says the relational aspect is a fundamental part of learning.
"Learning happens through relationships," she said. "The power of the relationship with another human being really accelerates learning and we find that children love to read when they get to spend time and to build a relationship with one of our staff or a volunteer."
Reading Buddies is so popular that the program will be continued indefinitely. The library continues to recruit volunteers for the hundreds of children seeking Reading Buddies' assistance.