Camden Community Stakeholders Combine Forces to Propel Student Reading Achievement

Major stakeholders in the city of Camden are calling upon their respective constituents to participate in a “reading blitz” on February 22nd for students at Lanning Square Elementary School. Partners in this unique collaborative effort are organized under the Cooper Lanning Promise Neighborhood (CLPN) and include Camden City Mayor Dana L. Redd, Rowan University,Center for Family Services, Cooper University Hospital, Campbell Soup Company, American Reading Company, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, and the Cooper Lanning and Lanning Square West Neighborhood Associations.

The reading blitz is designed to help children who are a little behind catch up on their reading to meet the goal set by the Camden school district for ACTION 100, a reading accountability system from American Reading Company. Research shows that most students who are below grade level in reading are behind because they haven’t read enough. ACTION 100 changes this as students are expected to read 4 “steps” or 1 hour per day, for a total of 800 “steps” or 200 hours per school year. During the reading blitz, volunteers will receive introductory training from American Reading Company’s master educators and will then serve as reading coaches to engage students during practice time.

“We have organized multiple stakeholders in Camden to align efforts to improve the educational outcomes of children in Camden from the cradle, through college to career,” explained Dr. Tyrone McCombs, Assistant Provost and Dean of Rowan University at Camden and co-chair of CLPN. “When we learned that some students needed extra support to achieve reading milestones, we quickly drew upon our resources to organize the reading blitz and expect to have over 50 volunteers.”

Books from American Reading Company and pajamas from Center for Family Services will be donated to every child to encourage children to snuggle up with a good book before bedtime. According to Merilee Rutolo, Vice President of the Center for Family Services and co-chair of CLPN, “This reading program is designed to increase literacy skills which are critical to overall academic and personal development. If a reader falls behind or doesn’t have someone at home to encourage them, we need to make sure they get caught up. Our promise to our neighborhood is to provide that support to make sure every child gets the practice he or she needs.”

American Reading Company has conducted reading blitzes in other schools. “The ‘Promise Neighborhood’ approach will have a much greater impact on students,” said Jane Hileman, Founder and CEO of American Reading Company. “Not only will students catch up in reading, but they will witness the support of the broad range of community stakeholders who want them to succeed. We are proud to be a part of this powerful effort that leverages business, government, and community organizations to strengthen our schools.”

Lanning Square School is housed in two buildings. The Reading Blitz for Grades 3–6 will take place from 8:15–11:15 am at the Fetters Building, located at 3rd & Walnut Streets. The Reading Blitz for Grades Pre-K–2 will take place from 12:30-2:15 pm at the Broadway Building, located at Broadway & Clinton Streets. The Coaching Overview will take places during the first 30 minutes of each session.

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