Join Our 3rd Grade Reading Program at Isenberg!

3rd Grade Reading 2019

By Susan Shinn Turner

During the 2015-16 school year, St. John’s began a partnership with Isenberg Elementary School to help third graders improve their reading skills.

The third-grade year represents the first year of testing, says Karen Puckett, the school’s media specialist and a St. John’s member who has shepherded the program ever since.

“In grades 1 and 2,” Karen explains, “you learn to read. After third grade, you read to learn.”

“Vocabulary is the great equalizer,” she adds. “If students improve their vocabulary, they improve their reading skills. If they improve their reading, they have a far greater chance to succeed in life.”

Which is why 3rd grade is such a critically important year.

Thanks in large part to the Gator Reading Program, Isenberg has met or exceeded growth in the years the program has been in existence. Prior to 2015, 3rd grade reading scores were below their expected level of growth, per state guidelines.

This year, the program is set to kick off in mid-October, once this year’s third-graders have been evaluated. The program typically serves 15 to 25 students who meet with a tutor twice each week for 45 minutes. For each student, we need 1-2 volunteers, depending on whether a volunteer wants to commit to once or twice each week.

During a 45 minute tutoring session, the first 20 minutes is for targeted work with comprehension or vocabulary. The last 20 minutes is a fun time for students to read books with their “reading buddy.” Together they read books that are of interest to the students and reading-level appropriate.

Volunteers can work any day(s) of the week from 1-1:45pm.

“It’s a huge honor for students to be in the reading club,” Karen notes. It’s something they look forward to every week.

Volunteers are trained by the Rowan Literacy Council, and all support material is ready when volunteers arrive at school.

“It’s just been a very successful program,” Karen says.

She points to comparative data from the 2017-18 school year that compared Isenberg to four other schools with similar school demographics. At Isenberg, 66 percent of the Gator Reading Club students were at or above reading level. At one school, 43 percent of the students were at grade level. At a second school, 25 percent of the students were at grade level. And at the last two schools, none of the students were at grade level.

“Intervention works. And we need it now more than ever.”

Tutoring sessions will take place on any weekday (Monday through Friday) the volunteer chooses from 1:00-1:45pm. Tutoring at Isenberg will begin after Oct. 18.

Interested volunteers contact the Rowan Literacy Council (RLC) at 704-216-8266 or The RLC will train volunteers on reading instruction procedures and walk volunteers through the process of becoming a school volunteer.

If you have more questions about Isenberg, please contact Isenberg’s Communities in Schools Coordinator Bonnie Harrell at 704-639-3009 x 358274 or email at

Isenberg’s Media Specialist, Karen Puckett, a member of St. John’s, also works with the Gator Reading Club. She can be contacted at 04-798-6834 or email


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