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Reading program implemented by Little Rock mayor shows success among kids

Before Frankly Reading, Isaiah couldn't read. And now, he's reading a comic book about space with dinosaurs.

Back in late April, Mayor Frank Scott announced a new reading initiative designed to get kids in Little Rock schools reading on grade level by grade three.

"This is a great opportunity for the city of Little Rock," Mayor Scott said about the initiative.

It has been almost a month since the summer program started. Using small classrooms, focused attention on reading, and incorporating the science of reading, 200 kids at five schools began their quest to improve.

Pamela Criss helped facilitate the statewide initiative called RISE and was recruited to oversee Frankly Reading.

She mentioned a simple goal. "We have to actually make pathways in the brain."

One of the methods used is breaking words down to their basic sounds and helping kids “break the code,” as Criss said.

Martina McCoy teaches full time but accepted the summer challenge of helping kids and is a big advocate of the sounds of words.

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“Knowing the letters and the sound creates a foundation for writing, spelling and reading,” McCoy said.

Smaller classes, individualized attention and more time is like "reading heaven," according to McCoy.

Next door, Ms. Rhoades read a book and all the while is posing questions as she keeps kids involved. She also introduces these first-time readers to the subject of the author’s intent. Pam 

Criss said it may sound like a complex thing to try and convey to 5 and 6-year-olds, but they can pick it up with good results.

“Each time a student picks up a book, he or she needs to know what is the author's purpose.”

Mallory, going into first grade, Madison going into third and Isiah going into first but also offering a special challenge to her teachers.

The first thing Isiah told Criss was that he couldn't read. 

And now, he's reading a comic book about space with dinosaurs.

When asked if Mallory was looking forward to first grade, she said, "I feel good about it.

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As for Madison, there is no holding back— she loves books.

Isaiah, who couldn't read before he began Frankly Reading, said he feels grateful for his newfound talent.

The program ends Thursday, June 27th. 

Here are the basics surrounding the summer reading showing encouraging signs.

  • Program student counts (40 student slots at each site - 200 total):
  • Schools: Baseline, David O'Dodd, Rockefeller, Romine, MLK
  • Students attend from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • The End of Program Celebration is on June 27 for all Frankly Reading Summer Series participants.
  • Bus passes were made available for all students via the CALS Be Mighty Metro program in partnership with Rock Region Metro
  • Meals provided via the Summer Feeding Program (additional meals provided in partnership with AR Hunger Relief Alliance)
  • All teachers are AR certified instructors with added support from City Year AmeriCorps Members/Alumni and Summer Youth Employment Opportunity (SYEO) Mentors