Back to (Better) Basics

Dec 20, 2010

Schools are the primary educators of American children, but community organizations also have an important role to play in learning. These agencies provide extra instruction and programs that schools aren't able to offer. Learn about Better Basics, an organization working to improve literacy in Birmingham, Alabama.

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An Important Supplement to Public Education

The chance for students to win free books. School enrichment activities that support learning initiatives. Classroom celebrations to reward reading success.

These are only some of the services provided by Better Basics, an education nonprofit that works with more than 50 schools in Birmingham and the surrounding area.

Better Basics has operated programs supporting learners' academic success for more than 15 years. This initiative of the United Way is geared toward students who are having difficulties with reading. Teachers and volunteers work closely with students to help children to improve their literacy skills. Here is a sampling of Better Basics programs that are designed to teach and motivate learners:

Reading Intervention

This elementary school program provides assistance for students who are reading below grade level. An intervention teacher familiar with effective literacy instruction techniques works with underperforming students in small groups three times a week over a period of 20 weeks. Phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, phonics and writing are points of focus. Select students in the program also receive additional fluency and comprehension instruction from trained volunteers.

Motivators of Reading Enrichment (MORE)

The MORE program is all about motivating students to become independent readers. Specifically intended for fourth graders, MORE is designed to inspire learners to read for pleasure - a habit that can ultimately yield higher scores on proficiency tests. Participating classrooms receive a library of books, which students read and write reports on. Now for the motivational part: Learners receive a free book for every successfully completed book report. More than 35,000 books are given away each year!

Schoolwide Enrichment

Remedial students aren't the only ones who benefit from programs that inject excitement into the learning environment. This program designed to serve all of the students in a particular school brings community members into the education environment to share experiences that can help to engage children in learning. Guest speakers and cultural presentations allow learners to interact with professionals, business leaders, artists and other role models who demonstrate life successes that can be attained with education.

Ready 2 Read

Second grade is a pivotal time when children are especially receptive to experiencing the joys of reading. The newest program from Better Basics capitalizes on this fact by providing second grade classrooms with libraries of hardcover books. Students can read titles of their choosing at particular times during the school day and rate books on a chart. Volunteers then visit classrooms every couple of weeks to gauge learners' progress and provide reading rewards.

These are only some of the programs that have made Better Basics an important community organization partnering with Birmingham area schools. And the efforts of Better Basics are making a real difference in the development of students' literacy skills: The University of Alabama gave the organization an 'exemplary' rating for providing programs that are highly effective toward raising reading level.

Better Basics relies on the support of individuals, businesses and foundations. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or making a donation, visit the organization's website.

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