"Literacy is the tool we use as humans to find one another, so it must belong to everyone."
Children who aren’t reading on grade level by third grade are more likely to never graduate high school. The Boys & Girls Club of Bluffton wants to ensure that children in our community are prepared for graduation and beyond with a strong foundation in reading and literacy.
Bluffton, South Carolina’s population of almost 19,000 people is growing daily. Many local school-age children and teens lag behind other communities in major academic areas, for example:
• Of the Bluffton Club’s 6-10 year-old daily attendees, more than 170 are below grade level readers, and
many are two grades below based on fall 2016 MAP scores
• 66.7% of 3rd graders test below State Standards in reading and 42% test below State Standards in math
• 51.2% of 8th graders test below State Standards in reading and 67.9% test below State Standards in math
Studies indicate third-graders who read at grade level have a far better chance of not only graduating from high school but also becoming caring and responsible citizens. It has been said that reading is the holy grail of education, that you “learn to read” up to the third grade, and then “read to learn” from that point forward.
For these reasons we launched a comprehensive reading intervention program, led by a certified literacy instructor in January 2014, and it has continued to grow and mature since then. For the past three years, our Reading Program experience has convinced us that afterschool reading intervention, as a supplement to the school District’s dedicated focus on literacy education, is a must for our Bluffton members who are reading below grade level.
Today, this well-established program is comprised of a “traditional component” and a “digital component,” (Lexia) providing the flexibility to tailor our offering to our young members’ needs. Both approaches are research-based and proven effective interventions. The program takes place from 3:00 - 6:00 PM, four days per week, Monday through Thursday. Three distinct groups meet from 3:00 - 4:00 PM, 4:00 - 5:00 PM and 5:00 - 6:00 PM. Each of these groups is further sub-divided into either the Traditional or Lexia program. Five paid staff members were employed across both programs. Three are certified teachers. One is employed with BCSD as a media assistant. Traditional is the “analog” version focusing on close interaction with our youngest members using books and manual props. Lexia is a digital program for slightly older members who interact directly with laptops using Lexia self-paced software.
In our most recent program year (Jan. to May 2017), 54 members were enrolled in both programs, and 47 members completed the program. In the traditional program, 77% of students’ scores improved on the San Diego pre-/post-test, and 66% of students improved their reading MAP test scores. Among students in the Lexia program, 50% improved between the San Diego pre- and post-tests, and 83% improved reading MAP scores. Students who improved the most attended the program at least 80% of the time.
New Literacy Center of Excellence
While our literacy program is firmly established, we lack adequate space to expand the program to meet the literacy needs of our members. Today, the program is located in a 1,000-square-foot space that has enabled us to support between 75 and 100 readers annually, under extremely crowded conditions. Realistically, we could serve 200 readers annually. During this school term alone there are 70 Club members who require intervention based on their recent MAP scores and we cannot invite them into the program due to lack of space.
We are addressing these challenges by adding a new 2,700-square-foot Literacy Center of Excellence extension to the west wing of our Club, and a large parking facility with a safe one-way traffic flow in and out of the Club to address our longstanding parking issue. The Literacy Center extension will provide us a tailored environment that would markedly increase the impact of our reading initiative while enabling us to return the current location back to the Club to support and expand other academic programs and activities.
After evaluating steel, modular and cinder block options, and in coordination with our Literacy Program Director, we acquired the services of an architect to design a cinder block extension to the south wing of the Bluffton Club that will effectively double the size of our current reading room, and includes 6 computer tables, 24 new computers, an office for management, rest rooms and a storage room; includes a large (greater than 100” projection screen) for video reinforcement; and includes custom furnishing for comfort, “student appeal” and efficiency, and most importantly, an optimal learning environment.
LITERACY CENTER UPDATE! We are thrilled to announce we have raised over $650,000 to build our new Literacy Center of Excellence! Thank you for your support! Please check back soon on information about our groundbreaking date!