FRESNO, California. (KSEE) – A summer literacy program is working to close the gap and improve graduation rates in the Fresno Unified School District.
Sounding out words, building their vocabulary, and reading- the building blocks to increasing literacy and a love of reading in students.
“If you can’t read that is going to effect you in several different areas and so we try to focus on what’s most important. You need to master reading so it can help you in all these different areas,” said Tonisha Hargrove-Williams.
In 2017, Fresno Unified’s Office of African American Academic Acceleration launched an innovating literacy program, seeing it as the foundation to increasing the academic performance of students.
“What we notice is that African American students continue to have lower graduation rates than other demographic groups,” said Hargrove-Williams.
This program aims to close that gap, and it is helping students make gains.
“It’s fun and it helps you get your improvement and it makes you get better grades so you can move on to college,” said Joshua Cummings, a 5th-grade student.
Administrators say the key to success here is parent participation.
“We have weekly family workshops where our parents come in and they sit with their students. They learn reading tips on how to help their students at home,” explained Hargrove-Williams.
The program which is running at five sites this summer has grown and is now an afterschool project.
It attracts teachers like Long Yang, who has a passion for teaching these kids.
“I struggled growing up because my parents didn’t know how to help me and when I had my own kids I didn’t know how to help them either. I wish there was something like this when I had my own kids,” said Yang.
Now he is giving back helping students achieve, his reward seeing them learn.
“It’s like a light bulb that goes on and you can tell oh you know what they’ve gotten it. I feel that and I know I made a connection with them and they learn something,” Yang explained.