Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,
09:09 PM

Let’s Read It Again!

Simple literacy program is having a major impact in Oklahoma City

Something was bothering Evelyn.

Her parents noticed the talkative six-year-old was unusually quiet and deep in thought. When they asked her what was wrong, she told them about a troubling experience at school that day.

During the scheduled reading period, one of her friends had struggled, slowly sounding out simple words and stumbling over simple phrases. Evelyn told her parents how embarrassed her friend was to not be able to read like the other students. Evelyn wondered out loud what she could do to help her friend become a better reader.

According to a study in early 2017 by the U.S. Department of Education, about 14 percent (32 million adults) of the population struggles with reading.

Evelyn is lucky. Both of her parents are educated and have worked in the teaching profession. As the small family began to discuss Evelyn’s friend, an idea began to form. Both parents had noticed Evelyn and her younger sister reading together.

Snuggled on the couch, Evelyn would often read a book and then instruct her sister to read it back to her. There was an undeniable bond and comfort level between the two sisters that made the experience special.

Evelyn’s parents approached Alan Neitzel, a family member and executive director of the ARC Foundation in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with an idea. The Read It Again program was born.

Here’s how it works: Read It Again libraries were established in several Oklahoma City high schools. The high school students are encouraged to take a book home and read it to their younger brother or sister. Once they finished reading the book, it’s the younger sibling’s turn to read the book to the older sibling. Hence, Read It Again!

The program provides a simple solution that establishes an early literacy-based foundation for the development of basic reading skills. This is accomplished through reading repetition and a level of comfort that only siblings can share.

An American Educational Research Association study showed a student who can't read at their grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer.

“We know that parents with low literacy skills are less likely to share books with their children,” said Neitzel. “When we can get siblings to read together, a foundation of reading and understanding is built and a comfort level with literacy can open many doors!”

Students without a sibling who wish to participate in Read It Again are also given the opportunity to be part of the program. They are partnered with a child from a local elementary school who is struggling and then, supervised by a teacher, begin the Read It Again process.

Neitzel says the results of the program have been outstanding. “Parents report the younger children who take part in the program are gaining more comprehensive reading skills, and becoming more confident. In addition, there is a better bond between their children.”

The Foundation won a State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant in 2016 to help support the Read It Again program.