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Thomas Jefferson ES Patriot Readers program connects staff, students through books

  The Thomas Jefferson Elementary School Patriot Readers program helps student readers improve their skills while providing a human connection during remote learning.

Andrea Schaal, district-wide Reading Specialist for Student Services, created the program this year. It is currently available to Thomas Jefferson 2nd-5th graders.

Schaal primarily works at Thomas Jefferson. She also has students at Charles Reed and Meadow View elementary schools.

Volunteers typically help students with extra reading when students are physically in the school building, she said.

However, Patriot Readers uses school support staff to fill that volunteer role in remote learning, said Schaal.

“Kids aren’t working with certified teachers, this is simply an opportunity for students to enjoy reading,” she said.

Students pick a grade-appropriate book from an online library then read the book to the support staff member virtually during school hours, Schaal said.

The staff members are trained to handle students who stumble on a difficult word and are sure to offer encouragement to bolster a student’s reading confidence, she said.

“It is really important to build success in struggling readers,” Schaal said.

The program also gives students contact with a caring adult, a connection that is diminished during remote learning, she said.

“This really is another way to nurture a positive relationship with another caring adult,” Schaal said.

Support staff helping students also are having fun and learning while working with the students.

“It’s been so rewarding listening to the students read and recognizing their growth,” said Tracy Luna, a Thomas Jefferson lunch supervisor who has volunteered for the program.

“Sharing this important time in their day has been so amazing,” she said.

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