TROY — Students in grades K-6 looking to get an extra boost on their reading skills can find a helping hand within the walls of Reading For Change.
Established in 2014 by Ali and Ethan Martin, Reading For Change is a reading, tutoring, and homework help program for children in the Troy community. The program serves elementary-aged children Monday through Thursday, and offers specialized programs for varying degrees of struggle with reading.
“We want to be a safe place for kids to come and become confident readers,” said Director Nichole Brown. “We’re big about being encouragers and showing kindness.”
Located at 105 W. Market St. in Troy, Reading For Change remains a free service to students in the community, thanks to numerous ongoing donations from private individuals and organizations and grants from the Troy Foundation.
The regular program currently engages students twice weekly for 36 weeks. A five-week summer program is also conducted through July and August.
The program currently assists 50 students, and gauged 2,300 hours of support in the 2017-18 school year, which equaled a value of $260,924 in direct community impact.
One aspect of the program that continues to set Reading For Change apart from similar services is its numerous volunteers with extensive experience in elementary school education, several of whom are retired teachers from northern Miami Valley school districts.
“When I retired from teaching in 2015, my first thought was that I should give back,” said former Troy City Schools educator Debbie Barkett, who joined the program as a volunteer in its first year. “This was right up my alley. I went to the volunteer meeting, and Ali was thrilled to get teachers involved.”
Upon arrival, participating kids get to have a snack and unwind from the normal pace of school. After that, all students and volunteers come together as a group to discuss their lives and what they have planned for the day.
After that, half the students will meet at desks with teachers and volunteers for tutoring, while the other half meet for homework. Groups switch after 30 minutes.
“We have a lot of kids that you can tell just aren’t getting it at school,” said volunteer Sandy Lutz, who was formerly an educator in the Piqua school district for 30 years. “You can’t blame school or those teachers, but it just doesn’t happen, and the extra help they get really makes a difference. We’ve had a lot of teachers and parents write notes to us about the difference they see.”
“We’ve had report cards brought in that show grades going from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s,” Brown said. “Not only do the kids feel great, but the parents feel great, and a lot of them will say it’s due to what Reading For Change is doing.”
Currently, Reading for Change’s daily after-school program has six to 10 open slots available to elementary-aged students. The program is open not only to children in the Troy area, but any child throughout Miami County looking for assistance.
“We have two from Vandalia, we have two from Tipp City, and we have one from West Milton,” said volunteer Jill Patrick, a former teacher at Tecumseh Schools for 38 years. “As long as they can find transportation, they’re welcome. We love kids — they keep us young and on our toes.”
“It’s nice, because this environment is a little more relaxed.” Lutz said. “Each of us is working with a few students at a time, and can give each student more special attention by focusing in on who needs what, and what’s going on with each kid.”
“The relationships they make here are special because they’re not necessarily ones they would’ve made in school,” Barkett said. “They might be from different backgrounds completely, but they become the best of buddies here. Nobody judges because everybody’s the same.”
“Nobody’s breathing down our neck to have anything at a certain place by a certain time,” Patrick said. “We can work with children each at their own pace, and that’s really a blessing.”
Reading For Change is a non-profit organization with the vision to equip students with the skills and strategies needed to successfully engage in school, home, and future work environments.
For more information, visit www.readingforchange.com, or find Reading For Change on Facebook.