Readers Are Leaders

IMAGINE OUR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT ATHLETES
STEPPING UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF BEING ROLE MODELS
AND MENTORS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES

IMAGINE struggling or disinterested young readers going one–on–one with athletes from the high school team—a one–on–one that takes place not on a basketball court or a baseball or soccer field but at a reading table. And IMAGINE these struggling students finding the encouragement, support, and high expectations that will lead to their enthusiasm and growth as readers.

IMAGINE these high school student athletes changing as they invest their time to help these kids—changing because they begin to understand the responsibility and power of being a role model, and changing because they have developed bonds with these younger students and helped them experience the rewards of reading.

IMAGINE further that this shared experience will plant the seeds of a life–long commitment to service and responsibility for both the young readers and student athletes.

And finally, IMAGINE a program that not only shapes these elementary and high school students in such a positive way, but also has a significant impact on the culture of their schools and communities. This is the vision that is being realized by the Readers Are Leaders program.

FROM THE FOUNDER, WENDELL BYRD

Today in our fast-paced, highly competitive world, we face new and extraordinary challenges—challenges that demand that our youth excel. We cannot afford to neglect or take for granted their development. We must step forward if they are to step up. We must see to it that they have the resources and skills to develop fully, to strengthen our communities, and to tackle the threats and challenges of tomorrow.

This program creates opportunities for our young people to grow stronger academically, individually, and socially. The heart of the program is built upon a commitment to service. We have targeted elementary school kids who need a helping hand to develop as readers today so that they can become contributing citizens and leaders tomorrow. Our high school athletes are called upon to step into the role of mentors—a challenge that promotes understanding, develops character, reinforces the importance of academic success in their own lives, and enables them to better understand their power to influence others in positive ways. These athletes begin to see the value of community service as it brings out the best in them and as they bring out the best in their young partners.

Readers Are Leaders also builds a team that includes our generous sponsors as well as dedicated educators—teachers, coaches, reading specialists, counselors, and administrators—whose commitment and support have been essential in making the program the success that it has become. This special commitment and teamwork allows us to set the bar higher for the upcoming 2009-2010 school year.

We are broadening our geographic scope again by extending into Loudon County and bringing Park View High School into our program. We are also extending our program in Prince William County by adding one or two new schools. We are excited about the success and growth of the program and the benefits experienced by all members of our Readers Are Leaders team.

ACHIEVEMENT THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS

Readers Are Leaders provides opportunities for growth and achievement. The program focuses on kindergarten through sixth grade at-risk students and provides these students with the support of mentors, who offer their friendship, patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm to improve the reading skills of these younger students.

Coaches involve their student athletes in this program to present opportunities for these young men and women to grow by reaching out, to strengthen character and social responsibility, and to experience the rewards of service by being involved in challenges outside of the gym and off the athletic field. These athletes become role models and coaches, committed to helping struggling or unmotivated students to move up the academic ladder.

The program enlists the professional support of reading specialists, teachers, and administrative staffs of each elementary school as well as the staff members of the participating community centers. With their assistance, our at-risk students are matched with an appropriate mentor. The mentors receive some initial training, focusing on helpful reading strategies, and are made aware of the other resources on their team.

Throughout the year, funds are provided for incentives and free books for the elementary students, and each participating high school team receives a donation to support its sports program.

Last year (2009-10), Readers Are Leaders was proud to extend its commitment and to reach a new height by touching the lives of 650 elementary and high school students.

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