A common belief suggests that improving youth literacy will help resolve these struggles.
Countless studies have shown that teaching a child to read at an early age positively impacts that child for the rest of their life.
A Memphis-based project known as Reading Bear (under the direction of www.watchknowlearn.org) has partnered with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi to make an impact on local literacy rates.
Reading Bear utilizes teaching tactics based on researched scientific methods and has already been well-received in Head Start centers, Boys & Girls Clubs and elementary schools throughout the Delta.
The program is web-based, doesn’t require registration, combines classic phonics training with whole-language and sight-reading methods and is 100 percent free.
CEO Joe Thomas, co-founder Charles Boone and advisor Dawna Divine presented to Bolivar County Head Start teachers and education staff in Cleveland Thursday as an introductory training session.
The platform will be instituted within a couple weeks at the county's Head Start centers along with Reading Bear's generous donation of seven SMART Boards that will be used for instruction.
"We're privileged to be forming this partnership," said Thomas. "Really, what better organization to be working with than Head Start? We hope this will be another great tool in their toolbox."
Bolivar County Head Start Education Director and Early Head Start Director Fanesia Johnson said she's thrilled to be enhancing student-learning opportunities.
"We are extremely interested in this program because it helps us develop our implementation plan we refer to as school readiness — to get the young students as ready as possible to enter school," said Johnson.
"Thanks goes to Mr. Thomas for contacting us and helping to enhance the technology at our centers," added Johnson. "Not only will students improve in reading, but the program also incorporates elements of science, math and social skills — all areas that align with our common core."
The Reading Bear team has been delivering the training to a number of nearby institutions. A substantial commitment has already been made to install interactive whiteboards in Head Start centers in Tunica, Coahoma and Panola counties.
The program is presented in 50 self-paced modules and covers more than 100 phonics rules and 1,200 vocabulary words.
Each new word is accompanied by a picture, a sentence and a short video — all of which make the program engaging to young learners.
Reading Bear is ideal for students in day care centers, community centers and pre-kindergarten programs and can be used as a stand-alone reading program or a supplement to an existing reading curriculum.
"It's so easy to stigmatize an area, but we are from this area and we understand the needs," said Thomas. "We think kids everywhere deserve access to good reading education."
For more information on the program, visitwww.readingbear.org.