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Gainesville pilot program helps parents push reading
Parents taught to bring personal history into lessons
Parent Nikita Payne listens Friday to teacher Gay Maehrlein during the Read and Rise program at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School. - photo by Tom Reed

A group of Gainesville parents are getting a crash course in enhancing the literacy of their children.

About 45 parents of children up to age 8 are embarking on a six-week program, Read and Rise, aimed at providing them the tools to make their students stronger readers.

Read and Rise is an initiative of Scholastic, an educational materials company, and has been gaining traction throughout the nation over the last decade.

“Read and Rise is so at the core of Scholastic’s mission,” said Windy Lopez, Scholastic’s community affairs director. “It’s about reading, but it’s also about showing and validating families’ and parents’ roles in literacy.”

One a week, parents attend a workshop, held at either Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School or Melrose Housing Authority, and learn the tools they need to encourage their child to read and consume information.

“Each session is very interactive with families,” said Merrianne Dyer, Gainesville City Schools superintendent. “The thing that makes it different is it connects the background of these parents with books.”

The idea behind the program is that literacy is not just words in a book — it is a combination of family stories, cultural influence and, of course, the written word.

“Bringing that into the workshops are critical,” Lopez said.

Parents are taught how to bring their personal and cultural history into the literacy lessons, giving their children a sense of purpose behind the text.

Gainesville schools are piloting the program for Scholastic at the local level, partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County and the housing authority.

The system wanted to find a way to get reading off the ground at an early age.

“What Gainesville City Schools was looking at was how to impact reading and literacy levels of children before they got to school,” Dyer said. “So we began to look for a program or a practice, look for something that had been done and tried successfully.”

Enter Read and Rise.

Representatives from Scholastic flew down from New York and put on a training session for those who run the program in Gainesville.

A teacher from each school, counselors, parent coordinators and representatives from participating agencies were trained as program instructors.

Scholastic even provided the resources for the first two programs in Gainesville.

But the national movement cannot continue to progress without local support.

“For it to really be effective, it really needs to take shape and form within the local contacts,” Lopez said.

Dyer hopes local support will grow and the program, which she says has given parents the confidence they need to help their children, will become a staple in the community.

“What we’re hearing from the parents is they’re confident in what they have been doing is helping their children read,” Dyer said.

Gainesville currently has two program locations: Fair Street and Melrose.

The Fair Street site has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs and plays host to parents whose children are in that program, or high school students with children of their own.

The Melrose site collaborates with the Head Start program and provides the service to those living in the Melrose housing development.

But Dyer would like to see the program spread its wings in the area. It just needs a little help.

“We can provide the manpower to go out and do the program if partner agencies and businesses could help purchase the materials,” Dyer said.

The programs could even be held at the company, she said.

The Fair Street program is in its third week out of six. The Melrose program begins Monday.

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