Coldwater Schools of Hope Reading Program
What is Schools of Hope?

The program is a one on one tutoring of second grade students who are not reading at grade level. It matches a volunteer tutor with a student with the goal that the student is brought to grade level reading by the end of the school year.
Why is Schools of Hope necessary?
The tutoring program was developed in response to legislation enacted by the state legislature requiring that third grade students be reading at grade level before advancing to fourth grade. Data compiled by the State of Michigan states that over the last three years, 60% of Branch County third grade students have not been reading at grade level.
The Coldwater Community Schools does not have the resources to address this need, and the State did not provide any resources with this mandate.
Is reading that important?
Reading is an important skillset that is a key building block for future development and learning. Children in early elementary simultaneously learn to read and read to learn. Phonics and sight words are critical. In grades 4-8, expectations dramatically change. Students are asked to apply sight words and decoding skills to more challenging content areas. If they have not mastered the skillset early, they may not catch up. Essentially students “learn to read” through third grade, and then “read to learn” thereafter.
Think of experiences in everyday life and how it is impacted by not being able to read. Whether it is grocery shopping, reading prescriptions, or applying for a job, the impact of low literacy levels carries lifelong consequences. About 16% of children who are not reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate 4 times greater than that for proficient readers.
Why start with second grade?
By starting in second grade, we have allowed for time to improve the reading levels of the “at risk” children. When we address the students at this age, we identify those in need of assistance early. A program of one on one tutoring may be all a student needs to achieve grade level reading. There is less pressure by starting early and taking the time necessary to be successful.
Who are the community partners?
The Coldwater Schools of Hope Reading Program is a partnership with the Branch County United Way, The Great Start Collaborative, Kiwanis Club of Coldwater and Coldwater Community Schools. Each of the organizations bring certain expertise as well as a commitment to the children of Coldwater and Branch County.
Branch County United Way and The Great Start Collaborative brings the program, structure & supplies. They assist in recruiting volunteers and garnering community support and recognition. They offer grant writing assistance for additional funding. The Kiwanis Club of Coldwater coordinates the program. It spearheads volunteer recruitment, training and support. The club interacts with the school staff in supervision of the tutors and provides logistics and fundraising for the summer reading program. Coldwater Community Schools administers academic testing to determine which students need tutoring. They assist in training, support, and supervision of tutors and handle the facility management. They track the data on the student’s progress, and perform periodic assessments and measure year end results.
How does it work?
This is an in-school reading program which pairs volunteer reading tutors with second grade students who are moderately behind in reading at their grade level. These volunteer reading tutors work one on one with the same student once a week for 30 minutes during the school day. The tutors are provided training in techniques and receive a tutoring manual and other teaching aids. They are coached on characteristics of a good tutor and given instruction on how to record the activities of the day. Once a background check is completed, a student is assigned and then a convenient day and time is set. Next, the tutor begins the weekly sessions with his or her student.
Does the program work?
As a volunteer, you obviously want to give of your time, but you also want it to be time well spent. We measured the data from the program and it addressed that point. In the first year January - June, 2017, 41 tutors were paired with students; of that total, 78% were able to achieve grade level or one step below grade level. Of the students that were not at grade level, most did not receive a tutor until March or April instead of January when the program began. It was a great success! The final component is a Summer Reading Program which we implemented in 2017. It reinforced and maintained the accomplishments of the tutors and teachers with the students’ progress. Students received books to read, and when tested the following fall, 80% of the children returned to school at or just below grade level. Normally, we would find that children would be 2 levels back. So, they retained what was achieved. Success!!! The next goal is to fund the donation of books for the future. Community financial support for the book distribution program is essential.
Why does Kiwanis participate in Schools of Hope?
“ Raising Literacy Levels” is the Signature Project of the Kiwanis Club of Coldwater. There are few things more important to the future success of a child than their ability to read proficiently. Children in early elementary simultaneously learn to read and read to learn. The lack of proficiency will impact the ability of students to graduate high school on time.