Only 64% of Portland elementary school students are reading at grade level by fourth grade. Portland’s reading proficiency is 5% below the state average. Contributing factors include limited access to books at home, with a ratio of 13 books per middle-income child, and only 1 book per 300 low-income children. By 2027, the community aspires to have 78% of children reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
On January 23, the Portland Rotary Club and the University of Maine School of Law launched their community service project collaboration at Lyseth Elementary School in North Deering to combat the current literacy crisis facing Cumberland County.
Lyseth Elementary School has implemented monthly in-class readings for 340 K-3rd grade students and book donations to students’ home libraries through June 14, 2017. A total of 1,700 books have been donated to supply the students for the school year.
“It is aligned activities like these that will help make sure more of our kids are reading at grade level and positioned for long-term success,” said Liz Schlax, President of United Way of Greater Portland.
“Launching the Law School-wide service project, in partnership with Portland Rotary, will help extinguish the book famine whilst breaking down those obstacles preventing access to knowledge for our most precious resource- our children,” said Danielle Conway, Dean of the Maine Law. “By promoting literacy among children eight years old and younger, I am confident that we will increase the number of children who will come to know they belong in college and in graduate school.”
Through this partnership, the Maine Law community and Portland Rotary members are building strong connections with the children through reading and demonstrating that members of the community care about their success.
“Connecting with Maine Law and Portland Rotary during the school year will help our students improve their reading and social skills,” said Peter McCormack, Assistant Principal of Lyseth Elementary School. “The greatest need we have is in the area of literacy, we appreciate the time they are spending helping individual young learners.”
Reading sessions are scheduled through the end of May. If the collaboration with Portland Rotary, Maine Law, and Lyseth Elementary School proves to be successful it may become an annual service project.