The Star – November 21, 2014
By Barry Rochford
FORT WAYNE — A project developed through the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Big Goal Collaborative has resulted in an online interactive series aimed at helping parents, tutors and mentors as they work with youths to improve their reading skills.
Called “Follow the Reader,” the online series is part of an initiative to raise the overall number of students in the region who can read at grade level by the end of the third grade.
“Students who don’t read at grade level by third grade have a very difficult time keeping pace with their classmates,” Ryan Twiss, director of the Big Goal Collaborative, said in an announcement. “We can’t afford to let them fall behind. ‘Follow the Reader’ is intended to offer resources to help the adults in their lives ensure that doesn’t happen.”
The regional partnership’s Big Goal Collaborative is attempting to increase the percentage of northeast Indiana residents with a college degree or high-quality professional credential to 60 percent by 2025. It was 37.4 percent in 2011, according to the collaborative’s “snapshot” report released in October.
To do that, several Big Goal “change networks” have been tasked with coming up with ways to bolster pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education across the region. The “Follow the Reader” series was created by the Big Goal’s kindergarten through eighth-grade change network, using curriculum developed by Fort Wayne-based Project READS, which stands for “reading, early assistance in developing skills.”
CVC Communications in Fort Wayne turned the curriculum into a series of five, 30-minute online training modules designed for parents, tutors and mentors. Also supporting the creation of the modules were Michael Burns Consulting, Sirk Educational Consulting and the United Way of Allen County.
“We know that one-to-one tutoring is a key strategy to helping students read,” Brian White, executive director of Project READS, said in the announcement. “Project READS has been doing this work in Allen County for 20 years and is thrilled to have this opportunity to help expand the reach of our quality curricula to the rest of the region.”
In an interview Thursday, Twiss said work on the “Follow the Reader” series began in March. With the help of CVC Communications, what he originally thought would be short instructional videos turned into more robust online training modules based on Project READS’s work.
“There’s tons of research out there that shows one-to-one tutoring is the most effective way to reach a child that’s learning how to read,” Twiss said.
The Big Goal Collaborative reached out to organizations such the Community Foundation DeKalb County’s Learning Link and Wabash County Promise to ensure “Follow the Reader” complemented their efforts in improving local students’ reading skills. The online series is free to use by parents, child care agencies, after-school agencies, mentors and tutors, juvenile justice programs as well as anyone else interested in helping others in northeast Indiana improve their reading skills.
“This is a tutor recruitment tool as much as it is a tutor training tool,” Twiss said.
A reading resource
The Big Goal Collaborative’s online “Follow the Reader” series was unveiled at an event Thursday night at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. For more information, or to sign up and view the free training modules, go to followthereader.abouteducation.org.