If you are able to read these words, consider yourself fortunate enough to have been given the gift of literacy.
According to the Oklahoma Literacy Resources Office, nearly one in five Oklahomans grow up without the literacy skills they need.
If that isn’t enough to motivate change, www.whizkidsok.com reports a whopping 74 percent of Oklahoma’s fourth graders read below the proficient grade level.
Letting these facts and figures lay dormant in my mind was not an option.
It was enough to motivate me to do something different, and my discovery of Whiz Kids was the mold of change I was looking for.
Whiz Kids is a one-on-one volunteer tutoring and mentoring program committed to helping prevent delinquency. It is a non-profit, faith-based organization that targets inner city schools whose students are reading below their grade level.
Different churches in the metro area host Whiz Kids once a week. Children first through sixth grade concentrate on reading, learning activities and character building.
The end of Whiz Kids is wrapped up with a short Bible lesson during Club Time, helping nurture the spiritual lives of children as well.
Approximately 90 percent of the children who participate in Whiz Kids qualify for federal assistance or free and reduced lunches.
There is a strong tie between education and poverty levels. Low literacy levels cost the American economy billions a year in lost productivity, and Whiz Kids has focused on reversing these bad statistics.
Perhaps just by reading this you still can’t imagine the poverty stricken background these kids come from.
Imagine an innocent, 11-year-old face telling you what he or she wants for Christmas is a jacket that isn’t ratty or torn. Or, that they’ve been doing their homework before the sun goes down because they don’t have electricity. Now take that same innocent face and imagine a room full of them.
Volunteering as a tutor just a couple of hours a week makes a difference in their test scores. It’s a huge encouragement to see their test grades improve — for us and for them.
But the need for this service outweighs the resources we can provide. For every child in the program, there must be a tutor and as it stands now, there are some children Whiz Kids can’t reach. Still not compelled?
As a fringe benefit of being a Whiz Kids tutor, time spent volunteering can also qualify you for a Civics Honor thorough OCCC’s Student Life.
But don’t let that be the selling point because the real honor is being able to enrich the lives of children, by helping them to read and succeed.
The best gift you can give yourself is by giving back.
Consider volunteering for Whiz Kids and making our next generation a more educated community.
To contact Casey Akard, email firstname.lastname@example.org.