First of all, we want to thank all of you who provide an investment through Global Giving, you are making a tremendous difference in the lives of youth who truly need us most, your gifts enable us to provide reading intervention programs FREE of charge for struggling readers who could not otherwise afford the costly tutoring programs that they require.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area first began implementing literacy intervention programs during after-school hours in 2006. Today the Clubs provide Literacy Centers at a total of six (6) locations, designed to assist low income youth and youth with learning differences, utilizing a multisensory approach instruction to benefit those youth at greatest risk of academic failure.
The Literacy Center programs benefit all Club members, providing services to more than 1,800 youth annually between the ages of 6 to 18 years. Yet the Centers also offer a more intensive literacy intervention program designed to address the needs of a targeted group of 1st through 3rd graders who would benefit from additional academic support in order to reach their benchmark goals. This targeted group consists of approximately 25 to 30 youth from each of the six sites (approximately 180 youth total).
All of the programs offered through the Literacy Centers are designed to keep youth engaged in school and to increase their academic success. Based on past performance, we anticipate that in the coming year, the Literacy Centers will demonstrate the following outcomes.
1) Among 180 youth in 1st through 3rd grade participating in targeted Literacy instruction, 110 participants will improve their reading performance by at least 25% from the pre- to the post-test.
2) Furthermore, of the approximate number of 1,800 total youth who will participate in the Literacy Centers the following percentage of members will complete the following programs during the coming year.
Since 2006, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland has provided targeted literacy intervention programs for the cost of the Club’s annual membership fee of just $5.00 a year—the actual cost per child is $225.00 a year, which has been successfully supported through fundraising and investments from caring donors.
For the past two years, local newspaper headlines have reported that 33% of high school students in Oregon are not graduating, and closer to home, Multnomah County reports that less than 50% of teens attending local public schools are graduating.
According to the National Institute of Health, 20% of youth have a learning difference. These children learn best when taught using a multisensory approach of instruction; which simultaneously incorporates visual, auditory and kinesthetic modalities. These children are spatial learners, placing them in the category of some of the world’s most creative minds (e.g. Nelson Rockefeller, Sir Richard Branson, Charles Schwab). However, when teaching children to read and write, the majority of classrooms utilize linear approaches based upon memorization and repetition—for spatial learners, linear instruction is unproductive; leading many to academic frustration, low self-esteem, disengagement in school, and eventually even dropping out.
In Portland, poverty is the single greatest risk factor impacting a child’s school preparedness, and once enrolled there remain a number of factors that impede their success: 1) 40% of students living in poverty graduate; 2) Students of minority are five times more likely to drop out; and 3) Youth from single parent homes are almost twice as likely to drop out. Furthermore it is possible to project with better than 80% accuracy that a 3rd grader will later drop out of school based on any of the above factors, as well as reading below grade level, or having to repeat a grade.
These contributing factors are realities for the majority of our Portland area Club members. Four of our six Clubs reside in the poorest and lowest educational achievement areas, where residents also experience high crime rate, increasing gang activity and drive by shootings that have even taken the life of a Club member. At these Clubs membership consists of as many 90% from low-come families, 84% minorities, and nearly 60% from single parent homes.
Identification of participants can originate from a number of sources, such as; teachers or staff from local feeder schools, concerned caretakers, or Club staff recognizing signs of academic struggles among members. Most often, youth are referred into the program because; they are not meeting benchmark goals; they have been identified with a learning difference, or they are displaying signs of becoming disengaged in the educational process.
All youth participating in the targeted intervention take part in reading measurement assessments provided by Literacy Center instructors, at the start and end of the school year to gauge their reading improvement throughout the year. Tests are also administered bi-monthly to assess the ongoing improvement of participants, but also to enable instructors to adapt instruction for those youth who require additional support. Two of the assessments are utilized by schools across the nation, the third assessment utilizes the Slingerland Screening Test, designed for youth in grades 1 through 6, and is used to identify children with specific language differences.
Combined with recognizing key socio-economic factors that place children at greater risk of academic failure (i.e., living in poverty, of minority, or from single parent homes), the goal of using these assessments is to identify those youth from each Club site who are at greatest risk and who would benefit from the targeted literacy intervention program.
The majority of children with reading difficulties can learn to read and write when their deficiencies are recognized early and they receive the type of systematic instruction exemplified by multisensory approaches. The Literacy Centers are operated by trained certified Instructors who have successfully completed extensive training in the Slingerland Multisensory Approach to Language Arts. Each Center is open during the afterschool hours from 2:30 pm to 8 pm and youth spend an average of 3 to 4 hours each week receiving small group and individualized instruction.
The instructors develop hour-long lesson plans for groups of 8 to 12 children, with multiple groups rotating into the Centers throughout the program day. Structured to the reading level of the child, all learning takes place with the involvement of Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic-motor processing. For example, for beginning readers, Instruction begins with the smallest unit of sight, sound, and feel—a single letter. Expanding upon that single unit, children are taught through an approach that strengthens intersensory associations and enables their strongest channels of learning to reinforce the weaker. From single letters, participants are taught how to associate sounds with their visual counterparts, put letters together to spell words, add suffixes and prefixes, write phrases, and sentences and paragraphs. This success-oriented program encourages the development of academic competence, effective work habits and self-discipline in a positive way.
Each Center also offers computers with access to on-line programs which provide self paced, fun, and interactive opportunities that enhance the learning process. These programs were specifically researched and designed to enhance the academic success of elementary grade students and youth with unique language learning differences.
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Executive Development Officer