2017-04-20 / Top News

Grant will help foundation help Immokalee’s youngest readers


Miranda Herrera tutoring young Immokalee Reader Selest Martinez. Miranda Herrera tutoring young Immokalee Reader Selest Martinez. True to its name, the Naples Children & Education Foundation recently awarded $200,000 for children’s education to The Immokalee Foundation. The grant was among the awards given to local charities and long-term initiatives for underprivileged children from proceeds of the 17th annual Naples Winter Wine Festival, which took place in January.

TIF will use its grant for Immokalee Readers, an after-school early intervention literacy tutoring program designed to target the lowest-performing student readers and complement the reading instruction they receive during their regular school day. By pairing high school-age tutors with elementary school-age students, the program provides intensive and enjoyable reading lessons that ensure these young students are not left behind.

At present, 542 children from all five Immokalee elementary schools participate in Immokalee Readers. Certified teachers train and supervise the 110 high school tutors.

Juan Sandoval, in red, provides reading tutorial with Village Oaks Elementary students. Juan Sandoval, in red, provides reading tutorial with Village Oaks Elementary students. One of the goals for the young readers is that by the end of the academic year, at least 60 percent of them will be reading at grade level. Another goal calls for 100 percent of the young students to have improved in at least one measurable metric: letter-name knowledge, lettersound knowledge, phonological awareness, word reading, sentence reading or reading comprehension.

With Immokalee Readers, there are benefits to students on both sides of the desk. The high school-age tutors are expected to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, be drug- and crime-free, complete a college/career portfolio and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for college entrance.

Because many Immokalee students use other languages at home, the additional training in English- language usage at a young age is especially important. As an added benefit, the high school tutors also have shown improvements in overall reading proficiency.

The program was deemed necessary when TIF discovered that Collier County Public Schools’ first significant test of reading occurs in third grade, and by that time many Immokalee students were far behind the average reading level. Immokalee Readers was created to start supplementing language and reading instruction well before students face that first standardized test of reading ability. Instead of early signals of failure, the students began receiving early signals of success.

TIF has heard from students and parents about how well the program works.

“When I started tutoring, the kids didn’t seem too interested in reading books at all,” said one tutor. “Now, they look so happy to see me, and they love to read.”

One mother said her son was slow to speak and had fallen behind in reading early in his elementary education. But all of that changed when he began participating in Immokalee Readers. “Now, he comes home and tells me about how he works in a group and how they read together, and he loves to read,” she said. He also came to regard his tutor as a role model and friend.

TIF provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more, including how to volunteer, become a mentor, make a donation or any other information, call 430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org. ¦

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