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70% of New Orleans 2nd graders can't read at grade level, local group says

Giving children the chance to learn to read gives them a foundation for future success.

NEW ORLEANS — It's a troubling statistic: About 70 percent of New Orleans area second graders cannot read at their grade level. That's according to the local tutoring group STAIR.

WWL-TV reporter Paul Dudley sat down with the director of STAIR, Shannon Able, who explains the efforts to change those numbers – and the group’s need for more volunteers.

Dudley: For 34 for years, STAIR has been teaching young people how to read by pairing them with volunteers and giving them one-on-one training. Shannon, tell us about your group:

Able: STAIR is a free one-on-one tutoring program that teaches reading skills and self-esteem. We’ve been around since 1985 and have helped more than 8,000 students in the greater New Orleans area, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done. We have a wonderful batch of volunteers already, but we have 12 sites for this year and we could use more volunteers.

Dudley: And what would volunteers be doing?

Able: You will work one-on-one with a student on their reading skills. We've designed a curriculum  that's proven and re-enforces what they've learned in school, and we give it to you. It's very user friendly and you work with a student one-on-one at their pace where they need help.

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Dudley: How can somebody sign up and get involved. It’s only a few hours a week, right?

Able: We tutor after school or on a Saturday morning, so if you have an hour or three hours to give we'd love to have you. It's a very simple process. You can learn more about it at STAIRnola.org. You need time to give, you will pass a background check, complete training and we will assign you to a student.

Dudley: Why is it so important to learn to read? What can it do for a child's self-esteem?

Able: Almost 70 percent of second graders cannot read on grade level. So, we have a lot of work to do. But giving them the chance to learn to read gives them a foundation for future success. I get to witness firsthand when they read a word and they feel so confident. Some of our students at the begin of the year won't even speak and by the end of the year they will want to get up in front of the group and read something.

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