Dayton Leadership Alliance works with school district to boost elementary-level reading skills

Volunteers are being sought in the Dayton area for the Reading Buddies program that is being initiated by the Dayton Leadership Alliance.

By Vanesa Brashier,

A group of Dayton leaders is working to help third-grade students increase their chances of future success by building their reading skills.

The Dayton Leadership Alliance – made up of government leaders, school leaders, community leaders, business leaders and clergy with a purpose of making Dayton a better place for all residents – is focusing on building the reading skills of third-grade students in Dayton ISD.

Studies show that third grade is a critical year in the academic growth of a child. If a child is not reading proficiently on their grade level by the third grade, the risk of dropping out of high school or ending up in jail or with poor prospects increases substantially.

“Third grade is a pivot point. Until third grade, children are learning to read. After third grade, they are reading to learn. If you haven’t learned to read and aren’t fluent with sounding out words and stringing words into sentences, a student will likely fall more behind,” said Rev. Guy Williams, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Dayton and a member of the Dayton Leadership Alliance.

A cascading effect happens after third grade for most kids. If they can’t keep up with their classmates in reading, children tend to get discouraged and stay behind the rest of the students.

“You have to read to learn your other subjects, such as history, social studies and science,” Williams said.

Working with Dayton ISD principals and reading teachers, at-risk students have been identified and will be part of an eight-week program that begins on Jan. 13 and ends on March 6. The Dayton Leadership Alliance has so far found 30 local citizens who are willing to devote 30 minutes a week to help a child improve their reading skills.

“This gives children a little more time to practice their reading,” Williams said.

The Reading Buddy is assigned to one or two students throughout the eight-week program with all mentoring and tutoring taking place in a controlled and safe environment for the children.

Williams took part in a similar program elsewhere before moving to Dayton to lead the church and says it was extremely helping in bring up the test scores and grades of participating students.

“The Reading Buddies are there to help kids with reading because it is a huge factor for their success in life. At the same time, a caring adult being there has a tremendous influence on the child’s academic success,” he said. “Some of the children might discover that once they are fluent in reading, they love it and it becomes a lifelong love and passion.”

The Dayton Leadership Alliance is hoping to sign up another 30 or so volunteers for the program. Volunteers must pass a criminal background check, which will be conducted by the school district, according to Williams. Bilingual volunteers are also needed to help students struggling to learn English while also learning to read.

For more information or to sign up as a Reading Buddy, go online to Click the sign up button and submit your information and a member of the Dayton Leadership Alliance will respond.

Williams is hoping to surpass the goal of 60 volunteers and says more help is always needed.

“We can use mentors for kids in a lot of ways. When we decided on this project, we picked a goal of 60 volunteers, but if we surpass it we can still put people to work,” he said.

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