Originally published February 21, 2019 by The Observer News — By LOIS KINDLE —
Ruskin Elementary School kindergartener Ixayanna Linares listens intently as Desi Ferreira, of The Observer News, works with her during a PCAT Literacy Ministry tutoring session.
Parents and Children Advance Together (PCAT) Literacy Ministries will soon finish its fourth school year of giving children most in need a helping hand with their learning skills. Based on the group’s latest statistics, founder Christene Worley has certainly earned some bragging rights.
Not that she would ever use them.
The diminutive executive director of Parents and Children Advance Together Literacy Family Ministries Inc. isn’t in it for any recognition.
“I have a heart for these kids,” Worley said. “If a child cannot read properly by the time they’re in the third grade, it’s very difficult for them to succeed.”
The group’s volunteer tutors work with children in kindergarten and first grade at Ruskin Elementary School and kindergarten at Wimauma Elementary School Monday through Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. They focus on teaching them the alphabet, sounding letters and blending sounds into words. They also work with readers and workbooks and play learning games.
The program’s techniques have yielded some impressive results.
For the 2017-2018 school year, 84 students received literacy training, and their parents received information on how to work with them and be involved in their education.
Eighty-five percent of the kindergarten students increased their Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) scores by at least two levels, and 85 percent of first-grade students increased their scores by at least four levels. The tests are administered by their classroom teachers.
Ninety-five percent of the first-grade students were promoted to second-grade, and 100 percent of the kindergarteners successfully went on to first grade.
And finally, 85 percent of parents were taught how to read properly with their children at home.
For the 2018-2019 school year, bilingual storybooks were purchased for the students to take home to read with their parents four nights per week. The parents must sign the reading log each time they read with their child.
“Engaged parents greatly impact student achievement, resulting in better grades, interaction in class, attendance, higher self-esteem and better behavior,” Worley said.
The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay awarded PCAT a $21,383 grant in January to hire a volunteer coordinator and cover other program expenses. The part-time coordinator will attend community events to promote PCAT and recruit additional volunteers. Hours are negotiable.
More than half of PCAT’s annual budget is funded by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. It has received additional grants from Suncoast Credit Union, the Rays Baseball Foundation, the Interfaith Social Action Council of Sun City Center, Sun City Center Campaign Against Human Trafficking and 100 Women Who Care.
The PCAT Family Literacy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
To invest in a child’s early education, send your tax-deductible donation to PCAT, P.O. Box 1641, Lutz, FL 33548. Any amount is appreciated.
Volunteers are always needed. Training is provided, and all that’s required is one hour per week. Every volunteer is paired with the same child each time they work.
To sign up as a tutor or for information on the volunteer coordinator position and its compensation, call Worley at 813-598-2103 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.