By Jessica Seay, Baton Rouge AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the New Schools for Baton Rouge team at Merrydale Elementary School. 

March is National Reading Awareness Month! Reading opens doors to worlds vastly unlike our own with every turn of the page. It enables us to learn about people, places, and ideas that we might not otherwise encounter. The ability to read is one of the most valuable gifts we can give our students, and Reading Awareness Month is a month to focus on the importance of reading books with our children.

The AmeriCorps members at Merrydale Elementary School work daily with Kindergarten through 3rd graders that are behind a grade level in reading. Each AmeriCorps member spends 30 minutes a day working with groups of 3-4 students, and many of the AmeriCorps members work with multiple groups throughout the day. In these small groups, the students read books, work on literacy skills and practice writing.

I primarily work with students in 5th grade math, but I do literacy intervention for one hour each day with two groups of 2nd graders. The six students that I work with will forever have a special place in my heart. Thinking back to where we started, it is amazing to see where they are now! At the beginning of the year, we were working on learning vowel and consonant sounds for the purpose of sounding out words, but now several of my students have progressed to catching themselves when they make mistakes and fixing them without my help. I had one student test out of my literacy intervention group, and on his last day, he sweetly asked if he could come back to my group to help the other students learn. I have gotten to watch as several of my students have developed their reading abilities and become leaders in my small group. I could not be more proud of their progress!

As this year is coming to a close, I know I will soon miss our mornings spent reading in the cafeteria and our afternoons reading in the school garden. I was a definite bookworm growing up, and I hope I can somehow pass my love of reading onto my students!

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