Book Buddies Help Young Readers Make Literacy Leaps

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The education reform group StudentsFirst recently gave Missouri a grade of D- when it comes to education policies.

The grade is based on elevating teaching, empowering parents, and spending public dollars wisely.

Read More: Group Gives Missouri a D- Grade in Education Policy

And while professional educators are tackling how to improve our schools, there's one group of volunteers whose mission is to help students one word at a time.

Every Tuesday at McGregorElementary School in Springfield, Makenzie Kolb can count on two things: a book and a buddy.

"When I grab a book and I see it, I just want to read it, because I like reading a lot," she says.

It's a passion Makenzie makes clear, but it doesn't mean it comes easy.

"I try to spell it out, but if I can't spell it out, because sometimes I don't hear what it says and stuff."

But for one hour, once a week, Makenzie's reading starts to improve, thanks to one-on-one time with her RSVP reading buddy.

"Reading is literally the key that unlocks the door for every one of us," says volunteer Colene Hanks. For the past five years, she has helped young readers make literacy leaps. "I can give her the push that she needs in order to succeed in life."

It's life experiences Hanks hopes the students she tutors can tackle.

"She's going to be able to fill out her driver's license. She's going to be able to read labels in the grocery store."

Time-strapped teachers like Makenzie's appreciate the extra set of helping hands.

"The confidence level has gone up," says Lorie Larson. "She feels confident when she's reading. Her word recognition is better."

The RSVP reading buddies are in eight school districts across the Ozarks, in 45 schools. Still, more volunteer are needed.

"In every school that you enter, you'll find students who are not reading on grade level and they need that extra push," adds organizer Carol Scott.

And for Makenzie, it's a volunteer's push that's got her turning the pages.

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