HARTFORD -- Research and data shows the first three years of school are critical. By the end of 3rd grade, if students are not moderately skilled in reading, they're unlikely to graduate from high school.
But learning to read and loving it starts with having someone read to you. That's where a program in Connecticut is trying to make an difference. Read to a Child is really just that.
Volunteers give one hour a week at lunch to one child and they just read. It's making a big impact on students and their future.
We checked in on lunchtime at Betances Elementary School in Hartford, but the program is statewide. Volunteer readers have no experience in education, but the one hour a week they spend is helping to foster a love of reading and a brighter future.
"It help me because at the same time your having fun but at the same time your reading," one student told us.
For some of these students, this hour may be the only time they have one-on-one reading time. Studies confirm when a child is read to, not only does their reading improve, so does their confidence, social skills, vocabulary, and even behavior in class.
"I hadn't read aloud in a very long time and some of the books are tough," said volunteer John Peleponuk. "You know Dr. Seuss can be tough, making up nonsense words."
Peleponuk and Tristan have been a reading partners for just under a year now. His employer, Travelers Insurance Company, is a big supporter of Read to a Child and even provides a bus ride over for a group of volunteer employees.
"Sometimes it's the the most enjoyable part of my week," he said. "To leave the craziness of work and come here and spend some times to connect."
The lunchtime reading program has grown from five volunteers in a single school library to more than 1,400 volunteers in schools nationwide. The program is in four schools in Connecticut: One in New Haven, one in New Britain, and two in Hartford.
In the school populations that this program is working in, 89 percent of children aren't reading at proficiency level by 4th grade and out of that population approximately 25 percent won't complete high school.
If you'd like to support that effort, Read to a Child is always looking for more volunteers. Almost anyone can do it. The main requirement is you have to be able to read aloud. If you'd like to get involved by becoming a lunchtime reader or maybe you're an employer and want to become a corporate or community sponsor, learn more here.