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Giving Young Students the Tools to Succeed

Colorado Reading Corps member David Lewis with his student Layden

“Mr. Lewis changed everything!”

That bold statement was made by Chandra, mom to third grader and struggling reader, Layden.

“Layden struggled with reading. By third grade, it was clear that he was behind his peers. I was worried. We were trying to work on it at home, so I was thrilled when he was selected to work with Mr. Lewis through the Colorado Reading Corps program.”

David Lewis is a Mile High United Way Colorado Reading Corps tutor serving Tarver Elementary in Adams 12 Five Star Schools. Colorado Reading Corps is a strategic program of Mile High United Way’s School Readiness Initiative that helps K-3 students become strong readers by providing access to one-on-one tutoring with trained specialists.

28% of third graders in Colorado are not reading at or above grade level. And since third grade literacy is the strongest predictor of high school graduation, programs like Colorado Reading Corps are critically important.

Mr. Lewis has a real passion for reading and sports. He approaches literacy tutoring as if he were a coach. “My students are the athletes working toward the gold medal. I mean that literally because once they complete the program, we hold a medal ceremony. The student stands up and closes their eyes.  I grab the medal from its hiding spot, and play the Olympic theme song. As they open their eyes, I place the medal around their neck and to the sound of an audience applauding over the Olympic theme.”

Layden worked with Mr. Lewis every day and made great progress. He was incredibly motivated. “In addition to the promise of the gold medal, my students are awarded a daily sticker for following the golden rules of the reading room.  Every five stickers, my students are taught the next move in a secret handshake.  Layden was eager to learn each of these moves and worked hard every day. He loved learning that secret handshake.”

Before long, it was Layden’s turn to stand on the chair and have that gold medal draped around his neck. “It was awesome. I felt really proud, and now I love to read,” says Layden.

“He is a totally different kid now,” says Layden’s mom, Chandra. “He reads a lot of chapter books now. He just devours them. All of his academics are stronger. I can’t thank Mr. Lewis enough. He really inspired Layden. I’m a single mom, and I think having a strong male role model was a great experience for him. I know Layden still heads down the library to read and visit with Mr. Lewis.”

Strong readers are strong students. Strong students are successful adults. Programs like Mile High United Way’s Colorado Reading Corps help young students tap into a new beginning so that they can succeed.