Florida’s Teen Mentors to Boost Kids’ Reading Proficiency

Teen Trendsetters(Tallahassee, FL) — More than 65 high schools in Florida are preparing to open volunteer mentor programs which inspire students to become better readers and youth role models.  The recruitment of teen mentors for Teen Trendsetters™ Reading Mentors programs across the state coincides with the start of a new school year.   This month, thousands of Florida students are volunteering and being trained to begin mentor 2nd and 3rd graders whose reading levels are, on average, six to nine months behind their peers.

“There is a saying in education that up until third grade, students are learning to read and then in third grade students must be reading to learn.  We’re proud of these teens who are helping the next generation to be proficient readers, and thus, helping the next generation of high school graduates,” said Liza McFadden, president of Volunteer USA Foundation which manages the program.

An alarming report released this summer by the Annie E. Casey Foundation concluded if the current trends hold true, 6.6 million children in the birth to age 8 group are at increased risk of failing to graduate from high school on time because they won’t be able to meet the national proficient reading level by the end of third grade.

  • One in six children not reading proficiently in 3rd grade fail to graduate on time, that is four times the rate for students with proficient reading skills in 3rd grade.
  • In fact, 88 percent of students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in the third grade.

The study also recommended the benefits of afterschool activities that provide literacy enrichment to help children succeed in school. Teen Trendsetters™ is a proven literacy mentoring program where high school students spend an hour a week in one-on-on mentoring sessions with their young mentees.   Sessions focus on a curriculum that meets national reading standards and includes books, worksheets and other educational materials.  In addition, the young mentees are given an average of 15 books each, during the course of the year, to build their home library and the teens receive leadership training, while learning the value of community service.

Both elementary and high school students participating in Florida’s Teen Trendsetters™ programs show impressive results:

  • At the beginning of the year 62% of mentees were at-risk readers. By year end, only 28% of mentees remained at risk
  • Teen Trendsetters™ graduate at a higher rate than other Florida seniors; 99% compared to 79%
  • Senior Trendsetters also receive scholarships at a higher rate than their peers; 78% compared to 38%

Funding from supporters, such as the Florida Legislature and State Farm, allow this program to be provided free-of-charge to over 1500 second and third-graders who are struggling with reading.  Teen Trendsetters™ is proud to be one of the most cost-effective one-on-one mentoring programs in the nation, providing a teacher stipend to coordinate the program, training for teens, and a series of workbooks and grade appropriate take-home books for the mentee for only $122 per student/ year.  Individual donations are accepted.

To learn more about the program, visit www.teentrendsetters.org.

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.