In a state where just 20 percent of fourth graders read at or above grade level, an innovative reading program has some of the most at-risk students in Oxford and Lafayette County making great leaps.
Established in the 1980s, the non-profit Leap Frog Program began as an afternoon tutoring program for 10 students who needed extra help in school. Twenty years later, that number has grown to 140 students and continues to expand each year.
“My first year, we started out with 90 students,” says Leap Frog’s Assistant Director Kathryn Shirley. “Last year, we added third grade and 50 more students.”
Along with the addition of third graders, last year the Leap Frog Program decided to add a more intensive reading curriculum known as “The Reading Rainbow.”
All of the program’s books and educational materials are color-coded and organized by reading level. Once students complete a color, they are allowed to progress to the next, higher, color level.
“For our new reading curriculum, 13 percent of our kids started out, and they were not able to read on grade level,” said Shirley. “By the time we ended the program last year at the end of school, 75 percent of our students were reading on grade level, and 91 percent of our kids were passing to the next level. That was a big accomplishment.”
Leap Frog’s main goal is to have each of their first through third grade students complete all six reading levels and be reading on a fourth grade level by the time they complete and exit the program.
This program continues to make a difference in the lives of many children in the Oxford and Lafayette County community, but it’s also changing the lives of its volunteers.
Camille Walker, a sophomore public policy major, is a first time tutor for the Leap Frog Program.
“The most rewarding thing I’ve gotten from this experience is to see my child’s grades go up,” says Walker. “When I first got her she was failing every subject. Now she’s passing. I’d like to think that I attributed to that a little bit.”
Royalty Sturdivant, 7, is a second grader in the program. Walker has been her tutor since the beginning of the fall semester.
“My favorite thing about Leap Frog is reading to Camille,” says Royalty. “She teaches me and helps me when I get to hard words. I’m doing better in school now.”
The bonds created between students and their tutors and mentors are not merely surface.
“I feel like Royalty is my own child at this point,” says Walker. “It feels good to know that I’m actually helping her succeed, and that this is not all in vain.”
– Lacey Russel is a student in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media