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Victoria Fridley, of SMART, makes a presentation to local business people about how her program helps children improve their literacy.
...Children entering kindergarten should have had 1,000 hours of one-on-one reading, says Victoria Fridley, program manager for the area SMART - Start Making A Reader today - program.
Many children, she
said, have had zero.Fridley
spoke about the SMART
program to local community members at the Sweet Home Economic Development Group's monthly Breakfast Club, held on the last Thursday of each month at the Community Center.She
said the program provides one-on-one reading help for children in kindergarten through third grade in 10 schools in Linn County, including two, Holley and Hawthorne, in Sweet Home.Fridley
is discussing the possibility of adding Foster to the list.
"We're trying to serve 44 children this year in Sweet Home," she
Schools in which 40 percent or more of the children are eligible for free or reduced lunches are potential SMART
Each student is given 14 books a year and, Fridley
said, for most of them the book giveaway days are a big deal.SMART
sessions are held once a week in a cafeteria, school library, hallway or spare room between October and May.Volunteers, many of whom are employees of businesses that allow them time off for SMART
, sit with students and listen to them read or read to them.Fridley
's emphasis is that volunteers be cheerful and supportive of students, in an effort to create a trust that many of the children do not have toward adults.
"Many of these kids don't trust adults," she
said."They've had adults disappoint them.
"When you see the impact on kids (from SMART), it's really magical.You can walk in and see the connection between an adult and a child."Fridley
said employees who volunteer but are out of town on occasion can arrange to have a backup who will step in for them - often a spouse or a coworker.Many children accept and develop a relationship with those people too.Consistency is critical, she
said volunteers report benefiting almost as much as the children they are helping.
"Corporate volunteers tell me it's the highlight of their work week," she
said."They come back energized.They're really finding it meaningful."Fridley
cited examples of students whom the organization has tracked down later and discovered that they have done well in academics after their SMART
"We discovered one young woman because she
reads for us now," she
said."She's a student at Oregon State University."
That young woman had a "workaholic" mother and an alcoholic stepfather, and is the only one of her
family who has gone on to college, Fridley
said that the biggest restraints on SMART
's expansion is finances and the need to recruit more volunteers.She
said that other states have expressed interest in the program, which is unique to Oregon, and she
expects it to eventually expand beyond the state's borders.Fridley
's impact can be summarized by a drawing that a child she
was reading with last year produced.It showed two "huge" heads ("The larger one was me," she
said), with huge smiles on their faces.
said, I was nice to the children and read them good books," Fridley