After District 97’s summer school session ended, 55 students attended another four-week  academic program run by the E-Team, an education equity initiative based at the Oak Park Public Library.

“E-Team and D97 bring in the best teachers, all reading specialists to make learning fun and engaging for kids so it’s more inquiry based,” says Francis Kraft, who runs the program.

Called the Power of Partnerships, the program for second to eighth graders allows students to work in small groups guided by an individual instructor. Students practice language, writing, math problem solving under a personalized plan of instruction. Reading specialists coordinate instruction and assess progress.

The E-Team worked closely with D97 to target kids in the zero to 25 percentile achievement range, says Kraft.

Carmelita Brown, a Chicago Public School teacher, was one of the Partnership reading specialists. She speaks of an Oak Park fourth grader who “came in with such a negative attitude about reading. She didn’t like to read, didn’t want anything to do with reading.” 

After Brown surveyed all of the students and learned this student was interested in fashion, emojis and drama, she introduced the girl to books and other passages related to topics that held her interest. Eventually, the girl told Brown, “I think I’m starting to like reading.” Brown told the girl, “You can literally read about anything. Reading isn’t only for academics. You read socially. You can read to learn how to make slime,” another of the girl’s interests.

Ivonne Machuca, who recently completed the reading specialist program at Dominican University and worked in the E-Team programs, says that once you know a child’s interest, “find a real-world application to it. Explain how reading can be applied. A lot of kids might not understand why they have to read. That it’s not just something they have to do at school.”

SAY Connects is sponsored by the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation in partnership with Success for All Youth (SAY).   

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