Reading scores increasing for Roanoke elementary students in after school program

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor
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Community Outreach Roanoke is trying to reach children on all levels.

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) -  A partnership between a non-profit and Roanoke Schools is improving reading scores.  The Community Outreach Roanoke program helps up to 40 children a week after school, reaching them on all levels.

"We nurture them in reading, getting their homework done, teaching them disciplined routines, exercise," said Becky Parsons, the Community Outreach Roanoke Executive Director. "We are uniquely designed to deal with early childhood literacy issues. We work with children who are struggling readers, their reading specialist at their elementary school has recommended them to us."

"It's been pretty hard because I'm trying to catch up to the class. My ears are sensitive so I'm trying to cover my ears and read because I'm more used to reading in my head," said Evie, a second grade student at Fallon Park Elementary School who also attends the after school program.

Reading has been difficult but having dedicated time four days a week after school to do homework and read with other first, second and third grade students struggling helped her gain confidence.

"I really like it because now. A's the worst and Z's the best and I'm a Z!" said Evie.

Families have to be very involved and come in Monday night for parent classes on topics like literacy, finances and more. Blue Ridge Literacy comes in to tutor parents on English and reading skills because a quarter of students in the after school program come from homes where English isn't the first language.

The students all read the same book like this one the story of Ferdinand. The year started with 23 of the 40 students reading below grade level that's now down to seven and with two semesters left in the school year they expect everyone will be reading at grade level by the end of the year.

"I feel calm because I get to learn more," said Marisol Vidals, a Fallon Park Elementary School student who likes learning now and is seeing an improvement in school. "My grade was going up, not down."

"It boosts their self-esteem when they see those grades go up and they see those numbers improved and they see the smiles on their parents face," said Parsons.

Students come from four Roanoke City elementary schools and the program works with schools to make sure students are keeping up with their work. It costs about $130,000 per school year to run the program.

This summer there will be a program for the first time hoping to prevent learning loss. It will pick up after Roanoke City Schools RCPS+ summer enrichment program.

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