When Fayette County announced that it was looking for 300 volunteers to fill a read-aloud mentoring program, Christian Adair wondered how many people would answer the call.
“As it turns out, we’ve had to turn away people in a few different schools because of how many volunteers we’ve had,” said Adair, the educating boys of color specialist in Fayette County who heads the district’s R.E.A.L. Men Read program.
R.E.A.L., which stands for “Read, Excel, Achieve, Lead,” is a national read-aloud program that puts volunteers in schools to help build literacy skills for students. Adair hoped to use the program to connect men in the community with schools and students, creating R.E.A.L. Men Read.
“We’ve adapted the scholastic program to fit our needs, but the neat thing is that each participating school can adapt it to fit their needs as well,” said Adair. “Some schools are doing full classrooms, others are doing one-to-one reading. It can be molded to what’s needed.
“Yates Elementary has adapted it to be R.E.A.L. Men and Women Read. But we wanted to give men in the community a chance to have their own special program as a way to help connect to the young boys in schools.”
Volunteers include parents, husbands of teachers, church leaders and other local partners.
“I jumped on the opportunity to get involved,” said Frank Mabson, a claims coordinator at the Division of Water Quality in Lexington. “And the response is awesome. For me, I want the boys and girls to know that men are supposed to be involved in education.”
Adair said that another goal of the program is to help schools reflect a larger part of the student population.
“These volunteers coming in, they’re educators in a large way,” said Adair. “Many of them are parents of the students, so they’re reflecting more of what minority students are seeing in the community and helping them recognize the importance of education.”
The effect the program has had since it was announced in October 2017 seems to be quite large, according to Sarah Blades, a 4th-grade teacher at Lansdowne Elementary. She credits the program with helping to raise her classes’ literacy score on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.
“My average score in the fall was 189.2 and my average score in the winter was 205,” said Blades. “There are other factors involved, but I think this program has done so much to help my students with their reading comprehension and reading fluency.”
Several students at Lansdowne Elementary said they have taken the books given to them for the program home to read with their younger and older siblings.
“It’s an awesome side effect,” said Adair.