The Literacy Project expands to South Summit elementary schools | ParkRecord.com

The Literacy Project expands to South Summit elementary schools

Sadie Sargent, right, works through a literacy assessment exercise using flashcards with Tracy Roberts, the reading teacher for The Literacy Project at South Summit Elementary School. Second-grade students improve reading skills through games.

Every day, six students from South Summit Elementary School sit around a table for one hour with cards in their hands and smiles on their faces. They play Go Fish, War and Rummy, all while improving their literacy skills.

The class is part of The Literacy Project, a program that helps second-grade students develop their reading skills through collaborative games. The program recently launched with 18 students at South Summit Elementary and several students in the elementary program at Silver Summit Academy, said Sue Grant, founder of The Literacy Project.

Students rotate among 13 games while learning different reading skills during the six-week program. They divide into small groups during one-hour increments throughout the school day.

"Learning consonants, the game is Go Fish. For short vowels, the game is Concentration," Grant said.

She said the games make it so the kids pay attention, because they want to win. Through playing, they learn.

But this is not The Literacy Project's first time in a classroom. It has served 8,500 students since Grant started the nonprofit in California in 2009. She came up with the idea after being selected by the regents of the University of California to perform research on the illiteracy rates in Orange County. After five years, The Literacy Project emerged out of the work of reading specialists from California universities. After it was tested at schools, Grant decided to raise money to bring the program into low-income schools to help struggling students.

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In the first year, The Literacy Project was at 39 after-school programs. A few years later, Grant started to see serious changes in the literacy rates throughout the Anaheim, California, area. Given the success, she was permitted to bring the program into more California classrooms.

When she and her husband made Park City their primary residence four years ago, Grant started sharing her work with Summit County residents. It was not long before people started clamoring for the program in Summit County and connecting Grant to school district leaders.

Grant presented the program to Shad Sorenson, superintendent of South Summit School District, who gave Grant the go-ahead to start it at the elementary schools in the district this year.

Grant said she hopes to bring the program to schools in the Park City School District next.

Lisa Flinders, principal of South Summit Elementary School, said the school is lucky to have the program, because it helps students who need an extra boost. She said that the teacher The Literacy Project is providing to run the program, Tracy Roberts, is highly qualified. Flinders is eager to see the effect after the six weeks are up.

"To have (the students) have those literacy skills in second grade and to be firm in their literacy skills is priceless," she said.

Grant said when the students finish the program, they write "a dream card" about what they want to be when they grow up. During a small graduation ceremony, Grant invites people from those careers to talk about how reading helped them succeed.

The message she hopes to spread through the program is, "If you can read, then really you can be anything you want to be."

She ultimately hopes to bridge the literacy gap, so no students slip through the cracks during their critical years. And hearing the stories from parents and students who have gone through the program, she feels like she is on the right track.