The discussion around workforce development often focuses on students’ middle and high school experiences, but research suggests that student success can be predicted as early as grade three. From kindergarten to the third grade, students are learning to read, but when they arrive in the fourth grade, they are reading to learn. This means that students who are not reading on grade-level at the end of third grade are likely to fall behind in all school subjects – not just reading. In fact, children who fail to meet this critical milestone are four-times more likely to drop out of high school.
Since 2014, volunteers from the Wake County Bar Association (WCBA) have invested time and money in WakeEd’s Partners Read program. Originally called “Lawyers Read,” Partners Read began in only a handful of schools, with the goal of helping first and second grade students gain confidence and enjoyment in reading. Four years later, more than 150 volunteers will be working with students in 31 WCPSS elementary schools.
One of those volunteers is Maria Lynch of Lynch & Eatman. In November of 2017, Maria received the Joseph Branch Professional Award, the highest honor given by the Wake County Bar Association, for her service to the Wake County community through programs like Partners Read. In this edition of WakeEd Insight, Maria shares some of her most memorable experiences with students at Stough Elementary School.
From Maria Lynch:
Most of the members of our small law firm participate in Partners Read at Stough Elementary School. We walk up to Stough together on Friday mornings, our cheap form of team building. The enthusiasm of the children is contagious, and all of us have seen improvement in their reading skills. We are particularly fortunate to have a great teacher assigned to the program, Jennifer Arnold, who is both very well organized and very dedicated.
The children often ask her when “their lawyers” are coming to read.
Each of us reads with two students throughout the year. During my first year, I read with two students who were both very excited to be included in the program. I received a sweet thank you note from both a parent and a student. On the back, the student drew illustrations of the books that we read together.
In my second year, I read with two students who really enjoyed reading. During our sessions, one student was often visited by his younger brother in kindergarten. This year, I am reading with his younger brother. My other student this year is a very shy girl who has come into her own and greets us exuberantly every week. Both of them like to stay and read through the session of the other.
I make a small-time investment and get a tremendously rewarding experience.
For the students there is the benefit of an improvement in reading skills, and when I am lucky, the development of a love for reading.