Children helping children shows results

Winand fifth-graders help younger pupils in school

May 30, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Once a week this school year, Tolu Olokum has been working with second-grader Shiloh Jordan, listening carefully as the young boy sounds out words phonetically.

Using rapid hand motions, she coaches Shiloh and offers words of encouragement when he struggles.

"It's fun. I help my 5-year-old brother sometimes," said Tolu, a tall fifth-grader who takes credit for helping her brother, Quan, learn to read.

Tolu is among 15 fifth-graders at Pikesville's Winand Elementary School who have been gathering in the school library during homeroom period every Wednesday morning to help second-graders with their reading.

The school's reading specialist, Joan Justice, and guidance counselor Lisa Scherr walk around, overseeing the 15-minute sessions. Since they started the program last fall, both women say, they have seen tremendous improvements in the younger pupils' reading skills.

"We circulate around the room and listen to kids read," Scherr said, adding that they then ask the second-graders to read them a just-practiced passage.

"These kids could use the extra support," said Justice. "I feel very strongly about having reading progress by the end of the second grade."

Children should be "reading by 7," Justice says, explaining the reasoning behind the tutoring effort. "It's structured to the needs we saw in this particular community and this school."

Justice said the second-graders have been tested since they began the program and the results have been positive. "We did some tests, reading comprehension, phonics and decoding, and they've done better than in the past."

The fifth-grade pupils are selected for their leadership skills. Scherr said they are not only trained in teaching reading skills, but in being sensitive to the second-grade pupils' emotions.

That sensitivity might come naturally to tutor Rashad Carter, who recalled the help he needed with reading in his second-grade days. Now he is helping second-grader Kevone Sampson.

"He can read pretty well, but not as good as me," Rashad said.

Justice and Scherr said parents, teachers and administrators are supportive of the program, which they plan to continue in the next school year.

Pub Date: 5/30/99

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