Literacy & A Growing Interest in Reading for Pleasure
The Boys and Girls Club (B&G Club) of the Flathead Reservation & Lake County is located in Polson, Montana and tucked cozily into the basement of a church near the middle of town. The Unit Director for the club is Ashley Byrd. As a PWNA Program Partner, Ashley regularly utilizes our Literacy service through our American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) program. But, for the holidays, she also requested snow boots, and stockings through our Holiday service under the Northern Plains Reservation Aid program.
During our recent visit, PWNA met Rebekah and her three sons, Giovanni (Gio, 11), Ivan (10) and Elijah (6). Also there was Rekebah’s service dog Rocky (named after Rocky Road ice cream). Ashley guided us to them, as she knows the boys love to read. The boys were sitting with their respective age groups enjoying pizza, and as soon as Jolly St. Nick and his Elf arrived, they flocked to him and we had a chance to speak with Rebekah. We let her know PWNA has supported the B&G Club with literacy supplies, shoes and boots, and holiday stockings. She noted, “Really appreciated the snow boots, it really helps!”
Gio and Ivan have been participating at the B&G Club for a couple of years; Elijah just started when he turned 6 the club serves ages 6-13. Polson is Rebekah’s hometown, and she moved her family back here after serving in the Navy for four years. Gio and Ivan were born in Japan during her assignment. Rebekah is thankful for the B&G Club. Her sons really like the people, they feel safe, welcome, respected, and part of the group, and she adds, “it reduces my stress.”
The club offers assorted activities and experiences, including Power Hour when the kids break into groups to do homework and read to each other. They can earn up to 5 points for each Power Hour completed, “depending on their attitude, focus and participation,” Ashley shares. The staff leads these groups to ensure students get their work done in a supportive manner. This helps parents too as “the homework is already done when the students get home.” In addition, the Flathead B&G Club supports time spent on math, language arts, social studies and science.
Through reading, the participants earn points to “purchase” items from the “incentives store” that are supplied to the club by PWNA. Sample items include books, toys, games, snacks, and personal care or household items. Both Gio and Ivan are saving up their points for something “big” Ivan has about 180 points, Gio about 160. Rebekah shares they have always had a love of reading, but when they are at the club, “everyone is reading and it’s better for them in a group.” Both boys are reading above their grade-level. Elijah, although an early reader, enjoys math and art.
The Flathead B&G Club has been utilizing PWNA’s Literacy service for a year, with positive results. Ashley appreciates the extra support, which helps enhance Power Hour and reinforces English Language Arts. “Watching children learn and develop is so incredible! I have been able to see advancement in reading with my Kindergarten through 2nd graders. My middle school members are starting to show interest in reading for pleasure; I often have a hard time getting them out of the library.”
Ashley adds, “Dr. Seuss books are always a favorite among our members… When a book is fun to read, kids are motivated to keep at it! I have also noticed a few of my 2nd graders who are eager to begin reading ‘chapter books’ graduating from picture books to chapter books is a big step!”
Ashley encourages other programs to take advantage of literacy support. “Literacy programs can help youth develop skills to further their education. PWNA’s Literacy service also encourages the development of healthy relationships by involving adult reading partners.” In 2015, PWNA provided enough literacy incentives and supplies to serve more than 25,000 students.