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Waco Central (TX) Links Fall into Reading with New Literacy Program 


By Mia Moody-Ramirez, Ph.D.
Waco Central (TX) Links Communications Chair
Western Area Links Communications Committee

Waco Central Texas students were invited to “Fall into Reading” as part of the Waco Central (TX) Links literacy program spearheaded by its 2023 cohort of new members.

“Students not reading on grade level in third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers,” said Dr. Jo-Lynette Crayton, one of the program organizers. “Studies have repeatedly shown that investment in quality early childhood education (ECE) is more cost-effective than later remediation.”

Crayton noted that Nobel Laureate Prize-winning economist James Heckman created “The Heckman Curve” to help document the advantages of investing in early childhood learning. It has, by far, the greatest return, particularly for disadvantaged young children.  
The “Fall into Reading” literacy program provided first graders with books to encourage their parents to read with them during the holiday season and beyond.  

“We took the very excited students on many journeys as we read their chosen book with them and donated additional books to the school to encourage further reading at home and at school, as well,” said Waco Central (TX) Links President Sandra Forsythe. 

Members collaborated with the principal of Marlin Elementary, Pam Thomas, and surprised students with 10 to 15 books each in November. The students as well as Waco Central (TX) chapter members spent time reading books and sharing stories, while participating in the important life skills activity. Parents of first graders at Marlin Elementary School completed permission slips notifying the school and the organization of their desire for their children to participate.  

“Reading makes a huge DIFFERENCE in the lives of children and the experiences they will have,” Forsythe said. “If you teach students to read, they will have a gift for life!”

The literacy project was particularly noteworthy as the holidays are often troublesome for students who lose access to hot meals, structured learning environments, interactions with peers, and instruction from teachers.

“Students selected the member of the chapter with which they wanted to partner, and it was hard to identify who benefited the most from the interactions because there were lots of smiles, high fives, and hugs from the students and members alike,” Crayton said.
At the program’s end, parents were asked to complete an evaluation and upload it for the chance to win a gift card. The gift card was mailed to the lucky winner before the Christmas holidays. Three first grade teachers at the school were also given books to add to their classroom libraries. 

Waco Central (TX) Link Sandra Massington, who lives in the Marlin area, said she read a book with a ballerina on the cover to one student. When she asked her why she selected it, she said she wanted to be a ballet dancer one day.

“I want to read about her, but I can’t read yet,” she said. “Then she turned and did a pirouette and said that she was practicing already…”

The Waco Central (TX) Chapter will expand its outreach to elementary schools in Killeen ISD. Principals at several elementary schools have expressed interest in garnering support from the organization.   

Katy Bohannon, Iduma Elementary School’s principal, is looking forward to participating. She understands the value of reading. 

“Who doesn't love listening to a good story that's read by a caring adult?” she said “Our students love hearing good stories and we can't wait to meet our reading volunteers. We are grateful to have dedicated adults who will model positive reading behaviors. Without a doubt, this experience will motivate our Maverick readers.”
Waco Central (TX) chapter members will complete the Killeen ISD volunteer orientation and sign up to read to students according to their availability throughout the remainder of the school year.

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