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Senate fighting for reading programs

Sen. Kathy Saltzman, right, spoke April 30 to several reading coaches and teachers from District 833 about the importance of continuing to fund the Minnesota Reading Corps at Woodbury Elementary. Staff photo by Amber Kispert

Reading is the cornerstone of education, without knowing how to read, students may struggle in other areas as well. This is why helping students achieve their reading goals is something that the schools are working hard at continuing.

District 56 State Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL- Woodbury) visited Woodbury Elementary on April 30 to speak about why various reading programs are so important.

"Reading is a science, it's not just a natural thing," she said. "First you learn to read and then you read to learn."

Currently Saltzman is working on two bills that aim to refund and expand the Americorps and Minnesota Reading Corps programs, as well at the Minnesota Response to Intervention Center.

Currently the Reading Corps program receives $2 million for two years in state funding, the bill proposes to raise funding to $3.4 million for two years in order to serve 29,000 students.

The second bill proposes to reauthorize $1 million in funding for the RTI Center.

Americorps is a national organization that allows volunteers to participate with various non-profits to help with critical needs in the areas of tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged youth, improving health services, teaching computer skills and fighting literacy.

The Minnesota Reading Corps is one of these non-profits that goes into the schools to help students who may be struggling with reading in order to reach the goal of literacy by third grade.

"Why wait for a child to fail, target them earlier," Saltzman said. "These are programs that absolutely make a big difference."

Currently, Woodbury Elementary has three Reading Corps members who work with students on a weekly basis to help them improve their reading.

During her visit to Woodbury Elementary, Saltzman spoke with various members of Reading Corps, from both Woodbury and Newport Elementary, as well as Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent to elementary schools.

"All kids can learn," Bernhardson said. "But to be a magician and make it so that all kids do learn can be a challenge."

One of the Reading Corps members and office assistant, Tracy Donnelly, said she has seen improvements in the students that she tutors, in both their reading capability, their excitement, and their self-esteem.

"They walk out feeling equal and better than everyone else," she said. "And then that bleeds into everything else."

Woodbury High School graduate and Reading Corps member Tyler Seidell, from Newport Elementary, said he initially got into the Reading Corps because it was a good first step on his path to becoming an elementary school teacher, but has since started thinking that it is something he wants to continue with because of the effect it has on students.

"I think the experience has kind of changed me," he said. "It's unbelievable how the students progress from just five days with me."

Without the funding the Reading Corps and Americorps programs can't continue and that is why these bills are so important, Saltzman said.

"This really works," she said. "We need teachers to have all the tools in their tool belts."

Bernhardson agrees with Saltzman that these programs need to continue to be funded and expanding, adding that the younger they start the better.

"You're capturing that window of time and we need to take advantage of it," Bernhardson said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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