Schools of Hope program offers early reading help
Funded by Community Foundation
The Community Foundation of Sonoma County, in partnership with the Sonoma Valley Fund, has awarded United Way of the Wine Country with a grant to bring Schools of Hope, an acclaimed early-reading intervention program, to five schools in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District. Schools of Hope connects local volunteers with first-graders who need extra reading support. It will launch this fall in partnership with the school district and the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.
Reading time with adults is one of the most effective, proven strategies to increase early literacy, which is why Schools of Hope incorporates one-on-one tutoring by trained community volunteers as its centerpiece program activity. Working from a lesson plan focused on basic reading skills, Schools of Hope volunteers provide children with the extra help they need to become strong readers.
“Schools of Hope helps children build the critical reading skills needed to succeed in school and life,” said Darlene Fiscus, vice president of Community Benefit at United Way of the Wine Country. “We are very grateful to Community Foundation of Sonoma County for this investment in our children, and our community.”
“Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. It is essential for getting and keeping a job with a livable wage and health benefits, and fundamental to a community’s economic prosperity. A student’s reading level at the end of third grade is a powerful predictor of high school graduation, overall academic achievement, and
individual and community economic prosperity,” Fiscus added.
According to the California Standards Test, only 28 percent of students in Sonoma Valley are scoring at proficient or advanced levels in language arts by the end of third grade. County-wide, 46 percent of students are scoring proficient or advanced by the end of third grade
“In the early grades, children must learn to read so that in later grades they can read to learn,” said Louann Carlomagno, superintendent of Sonoma Valley Unified School District. “One of our district goals is to have all students proficient in reading by the end of third grade. While we know we have a great deal of work to do to achieve this goal, we strongly believe that Schools of Hope can help us get there.”
Schools of Hope has successfully been implemented in 62 classrooms at nine schools in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. In 2011, 375 volunteers tutored 300 first and second grade students. Evaluations show that 86 percent of the tutored students improved their reading skills and 87 percent showed improved attitudes towards learning and school.
“The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation is excited to lead this initiative for Sonoma Valley, in partnership with United Way of the Wine Country,” said Laura Zimmerman, executive director of Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, which is dedicated to making sure every student graduates from Sonoma Valley schools ready for college and a career.
Schools of Hope is currently looking for 100 volunteers to work one-on-one with a first grader for a minimum of 30 minutes during the school day, from October to May. Sonoma Valley elementary schools include Dunbar, El Verano, Flowery, Prestwood, and Sassarini. Schools of Hope orientation sessions began in early August with tutor trainings starting in September.
To learn more about Schools of Hope, or to register for a volunteer orientation session, visit unitedwaywinecountry.org/sohsonoma, or contact Tina Luther, operations manager at the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, at 935-9566.