Local organization strives to improve reading proficiency among children in Georgia

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 11:29 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Research in Georgia shows that children in families struggling with poverty are not reading at their recommended grade level. A local organization is trying to fill that gap.

Knowing that it’s crucial to teach children early how to read, Open Door Community House focuses on helping students succeed in all subjects.

Kim Jenkins is the executive director at Open Door Community House. It’s a social services organization that helps children and impoverished families.

With many kids attending the organization’s after school program having to transition from home to home, she understands why they struggle with reading.

“So they typically come to us far behind their peers when they get to school...especially around reading,” said Jenkins. “So the things that they may have like books or reading tools sometimes don’t get moved from location to location.”

Dr. Jyll Walsh, Program Coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse GA, says that reading proficiency is an issue for many fourth graders in Georgia.

In fact, she says 65 percent of fourth graders are not reading at their recommended grade level.

“That statistic is pre-pandemic. So even on a good day...we have 1 in 5 children who are experiencing poverty. So that’s about $26,000 a year or less for a family of four. That’s pretty extreme,” said Dr. Walsh.

The onset of virtual learning also causes concerns.

“We know that those numbers of children not reading at proficient level are definitely going to rise,” said Walsh.

Dr. Walsh also says the lack of funding and access to early care and education are two major reasons for reading issues.

“I think the statistic typically is...if you haven’t gotten them at grade level in reading by fourth grade...the theory is that it’s very hard to catch up,” said Kim Jenkins.

Rita Matthews, volunteer at Open Door, says parents should remember fixing the issue starts at home.

“We really don’t pay attention to that because we figure ‘okay I sent my kids to school. They should learn this in school,” said Matthews.

For children to attend this organization’s after school program called Mathews Promise Academy, they have to be in a family that earns federal poverty guideline or below and they have to be between 5 and 17 years old.

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