The Kiwanis Rewards for Reading Program is an innovative and successful approach to encourage children to read more books and improve reading comprehension skills. It is fun and it works! Since 2006 the Dawn Busters Kiwanis have partnered with Jefferson Parish Schools to provide incentives for the children to read.
The basic concept is simple: The children read a book, take a test to demonstrate that they comprehended it, if they pass they get a ticket that goes into a drawing for prizes. The more books they read and pass a test on the more chances they have to win.
Program History The Kiwanis Rewards for Reading Program looks nothing like it did at first. When the Program started, the Dawn Busters Kiwanis adopted a bike-give-away model they learned about from another Kiwanis Club. They started in 14 Jefferson Parish Schools. The Club would give away two bikes a year, one boy’s bike and one girl’s bike. Before the Christmas break one child’s name would be drawn. There was nothing more than the name being announced over the PA.
In December 2009, a new member of Dawn Busters Kiwanis, Mel Dussel was sent to one of the schools to give away a bike. In the school office, a child’s ticket was drawn and when her name was announced everyone there started hugging each other and crying. They explained to Mel that the little girl had lost one of her parents recently and was going to have a tough Christmas. Overcome with emotion Mel asked if there was anything else the Dawn Busters could do? The principle responded that if possible next year, maybe the Dawn Busters could give away two bikes at Christmas and two at the end of the year. She explained that if a girl won in December the girls knew they could not win at the end of the year and would not be motivated to keep reading. Mel immediately said we have a boy’s bike right here, let’s give it away now. A boy’s name was drawn and the office staff broke into tears again. The little boy had a similar story and everyone was so excited that he won. That was Mel’s “Kiwanis Moment”. He knew right then that this Rewards for Reading Program could be so much more. He volunteered to be the Committee Chairperson and vowed to find Corporate sponsors so more incentive prizes could be given away. He expanded the Program to twenty Jefferson Parish Schools and every year the actual Program the children attend has grown. Just as Mel envisioned, the children in our schools are excited about reading! They are reading lots of books, learning to read well and doing much better in school because of it. All of our schools have dramatically improved their school grades.
The importance of children learning to read well at an early age is highlighted by two shocking statistics: A child that cannot read at grade level by the end of the Third grade is three to four times more likely to drop out of school. And, 80% of incarcerated people are functionally illiterate school dropouts. By providing lots of incentives for the children to read they all can feel like they have a chance to win. And thanks to our many generous Corporate Sponsors’ donations, we are able to make sure that every child gets something to reward his or her reading.
The Program Now: The Dawn Busters Kiwanis Rewards for Reading Programs that we did twice a year in twenty Jefferson Parish Elementary Schools has grown tremendously. Because of the great success the Dawn Busters Kiwanis Rewards for Reading Program has had in our 20 schools, former Jefferson Parish Schools Superintendent, Dr. Cade Brumley asked us to help implement the Program into all fifty-six Jefferson Parish Elementary Schools (East Bank and West Bank). More than 21,700 elementary students will be eligible for reading rewards twice each year, at the end of each semester.
Now, twice a year every school has a forty-five minute to an hours long assembly with all the students present. We show up with mascots, upbeat music, Club members, Corporate Sponsors, local community leaders and lots of prizes! The kids get super excited and everyone has fun! And most important, the children are reading more books, a lot more! Our Vision We know from years of experience that this model works. By getting the children in our community excited about reading we are directly impacting their lives. As more and more of the children in our Parish get excited and learn to read, their overall education will improve and the entire community will be impacted. We are changing the future of thousands of children and our community!
Our goal is to help other Clubs across the country to implement this model and impact their communities too.
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