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Port Arthur YMCA kicks off 2019 Y Reads to improve elementary literacy rates

The YMCA of Southeast Texas developed a program in 2010 in partnership with United Way of Mid and South Jefferson County to start a literacy program — Y Reads.

This year, Y Reads kicks off its seventh anniversary with a “Believe in Yourself” theme.

Brittany Mercer, childcare and literacy director at YMCA Port Arthur, said the program is built to combat low literacy rates.

“What we do is help kids with their reading skills, reading comprehension and fluency,” she said. “We even help with their self-esteem, because if they are low readers, they often struggle with their self-esteem and don’t want to speak out or read out.”

The program operates across three elementary schools in the district — Sam Houston, Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams and Booker T. Washington. Sessions take place Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, either before or after school depending on the campus.

“We pull out, depending on the grade level, anywhere from kindergarten to fifth grade and we work with them on their basic needs,” Mercer said.

Y Reads visited Adams Elementary Thursday afternoon to kickoff the new year. A volunteer from Flint Hills read “Iggy Peck, Architect.”

“Basically Iggy Peck believed that he couldn’t do anything, but he was creative,” Mercer said. “What he was challenged to do was build things. At home he would build things with pancakes, but he would get in trouble for it so his parents helped him realize that he could do more with his talent. He started doing things outside of home building bridges, etc.”

Mercer said books about teamwork, self-expression, creativity and never giving up are often showcased — perfect for students struggling with confidence and reading skills.

Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams Elementary principal Cheryl Tripplett said she has seen a spike in reading comprehension since partnering with the Y Reads.

“We’ve had the Y Reads program here for years,” she said. “It’s so beneficial for our students because it helps with tutoring. It allows us to do tutoring for the lower grades K-5.

“We’ve really seen the benefit and have seen it improve their reading skills, and the students absolutely love working with the YMCA directors. Half the time they beat the teachers here looking for them in the morning.”

The program is based on teacher recommendations. Students and parents are required to sign a registration form and speak with their teacher about the program.

For more information email Brittany Mercer at bmercer@ymcasetx.org.