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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow SMART READING PROGRAM COMES TO NORTHEAST OREGON

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SMART READING PROGRAM COMES TO NORTHEAST OREGON

HELP WITH READING: Willow School volunteer Betty Moses helps fourth-grader Justin Smith with reading at the school Tuesday. The school has a reading program that is modeled after SMART. Its reading buddy program has been in place for three years. Adult buddy volunteers read to children in kindergarten through third grade.  (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
HELP WITH READING: Willow School volunteer Betty Moses helps fourth-grader Justin Smith with reading at the school Tuesday. The school has a reading program that is modeled after SMART. Its reading buddy program has been in place for three years. Adult buddy volunteers read to children in kindergarten through third grade. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Reading is a complicated intellectual process.

Promoting literacy, though, can be as simple as the number one.

An adult who volunteers to read one hour a week with a child can play a critical role in helping the youngster develop literacy skills.

A new program starting in Union and Wallowa counties emphasizes that point. It is Oregons Start Making A Reader Today (SMART) program.

SMART volunteers read an hour, one-on-one, to children in kindergarten through third grade.

The program started 10 years ago and has proven so successful that today at least 250 schools in Oregon have it in place.

In early February SMART will begin operating in the La Grande, Joseph and Enterprise school districts. Volunteers are being recruited in all three districts, said Janet Nedry, SMARTs Eastern Region manager.

Nedry hopes to get 60 volunteers recruited for the La Grande School District, 20 for Joseph and 30 for Enterprise.

To volunteer, an adult must enjoy children and be able to read. Volunteers also must pass a criminal background check.

Adults will receive training on reading to children. Volunteers will learn about the importance of keeping a child interested by asking questions about the story and getting the youngster to predict its outcome. Volunteers also will be told that they are not instructors.

We tell the volunteers that they are not teaching students to read. They are complementing what is happening in the classroom, said Nedry, who is based in La Grande.

Children involved in SMART will receive two free books a month.

Nedry said the program is needed because many children enter school with little reading experience since their parents have not read to them. Many children lack the reading fundamentals.

Teachers are in a position in which they have to play catch-up, Nedry said.

SMART volunteers focus on children in kindergarten through third grade. This is because after the third grade children, who have not learned to read, quickly fall behind.

Children learn to read through the second grade. From third grade on they read to learn, Nedry said.

SMART is sponsored by local donations and the Oregon Childrens Foundation, which was started in 1992 by former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt. SMART is the only program that the Oregon Childrens Foundation supports.

Students who will benefit most are selected for SMART by their teachers.

For many years only schools with a large number of students from low-income families could be involved in SMART. Today all elementary schools are eligible for the program.

Central, Greenwood, Island City and Riveria elementary schools in the La Grande School District will be involved in SMART. Students in kindergarten and first grade will be served this school year. Second-and third graders will be included next school year.

La Grande School District Superintendent Dan Arriola has helped launch SMART by providing office space and equipment for Nedry.

Arriola became interested in SMART after serving as superintendent of the Tillamook School District in 2000-01. Tillamook had a successful SMART program which Arriola participated in. He read to two first-graders each week through SMART.

They (the first-graders) made a lot of progress in fluency and word recognition, Arriola said.

He added that Tillamooks program is succeeding because of community support. He hopes to see the program receive the same support in La Grande. Arriola is encouraging businesses to let their employees off an hour a week so that they can serve as SMART volunteers.

Nedry said it is critical that a broad base of volunteers be established. She does not want SMART programs established that rely on a handful of enthusiastic administrators and volunteers.

We want to be broad-based so that the program can continue from year to year, Nedry said.

To sign up as a SMART volunteer or receive more information call Nedry at 663-3204.

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