LIMESTONE, Ala. - During the 2014-15 school year, the number of fourth-grade students in Alabama not proficient in reading was enough to fill 615 school buses. That's according to a Voices for Alabama's Children study.
A reading program in Limestone County aims to change that.
Diane Steele is the Coordinator of the Limestone County NAACP's 'STEPS' reading program. STEPS stands for "Students Taking Excellence Personally = Success. Steele says reading is fundamental.
"You hear that term all the time, but we understand that reading is definitely the basic tool for academic success," Stelle said.
Eighth-grader Drake Toney loves to sing and he knows reading will help him find his voice.
"It helps a lot because your reading -- you are going to have to use it for the rest of your life," Toney said.
Steele has been the head of the program for more than a decade and says she's seen many kids grow and excel.
"There are students that are coming here --- they have been labeled that they are slow or they are not capable of learning, and we defy those odds in many, many cases," Steele said.
Beyond just learning, the students are developing a passion for reading.
"I think it's the action. The action gets me really involved in the books," said Toney.
The STEPS program is welcoming new volunteers and students ages 3-13. They meet on the second Saturday of every month at 9:30 a.m. until noon. The program provides books, lunch and even transportation for students who do not have rides.
If you or someone you know is interested in getting involved call 256-216-5668.