Huntsville congregation partners with school to tutor students

HUNTSVILLE, Ala -- A Huntsville church has a big goal. They want to increase the number of students who graduate from high school.

Willowbrook Baptist Church members say preparing for graduation begins well before 9th grade. This year, they began a partnership with Blossomwood Elementary School in the Arise to Read program to help 2nd-graders with their reading skills.

"In the first few grades we're learning to read and then we're reading to learn," volunteer Denise Gibbs said.

"I think its great. I think we have some fabulous teachers who do a great job, we have incredible parent volunteers who do a great job, but to have additional partners from the community come in to help support our students makes it all the better," Blossomwood Elementary Principal Jamie Burton said.

They're teaching students to read common 3rd-grade level words by sight.

"When we look at a word, say like come, or have or was, or think, just words that you're going to see very, very often in books. You don't want to have to try to sound it out and figure it out every time you come to it," Gibbs said.

Gibbs is a retired educator. She says reading skills are critical for every subject in school.

"Whether its science or even math because math requires a good bit of reading," Gibbs said.

Falling behind at 3rd-grade can cause a negative ripple effect, but being on target can turn a page in a student's academic career.

"Through a laser focus on helping a child be able to read at a 3rd-grade level, then you got a 90% chance that they'll graduate from high school," volunteer Frank Swalley said.

Willowbrook Baptist Church members want volunteer efforts at Blossomwood to serve as a pilot program. Eventually, they hope to help other churches bring Arise to Read to more schools in the area. For more information contact: fswalley@willowbrook.org

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