Fort Wayne, Ind. (WANE) Read a book to a child and you help them explore opportunities for personal growth. That’s the mindset of Project Reads. “It’s fun and it’s educational and it helps you get smart,” said third grader Aymari Hadzic. “It’s also good for your brain.” Aymari is one of about 150 Allen County students being mentored in Project Reads.The program is offered by the Allen County Education Partnership.

Project Reads trains mentors to help students in kindergarten through third grade read at or above their grade level. Jane Dawkins is Aymari’s mentor. “I get to watch kids really blossom and grow,” said Dawkins. “In an ideal world there is one student per volunteer that way you have the ability to establish a relationship, look for their weaknesses and their strengths and work on what needs working on.”

The program is designed to target kids at the most critical time in their literacy development. “Third grade is a pivotal year,” said Executive Director DeShawn Wert. “That’s when ISTEP and IREAD tests happen. Research has shown that if kids are not reading at level, that’s where they can fall through the cracks because reading turns from learning to read to reading to learn and if you’re not reading at level, you’re not learning from your reading.”

Mentors volunteer an hour out of their day once a week. “We train mentors. We show them how to work with the kids,” said Wert.  We also offer online programs that help parents learn to mentor their own children.” Project Reads operates 20 sites in Allen County during the 2017-2018 school year.

The Allen County Education Partnership will hold its annual fall fundraiser called Turning the Page, Thursday, November 16th at The Summit at 1025 W. Rudisill Boulevard. Fort Wayne resident and children’s book author and illustrator Claire Ewart will be the keynote speaker.  Proceeds will benefit Project READS. For more information go to the Allen County Education Partnership website.