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Did you know that, in our country, only about one third of students are proficient in reading by the time they reach fourth grade?
Teaching our kids to become skilled readers early on is key to ensuring their success in school and life. This is especially true for the nearly one out of four children living in poverty in America. Why? Because education is one of the most viable pathways out of poverty. And yet, more than 60 percent of low-income families can't afford to have books in their homes.
That's why Save the Children works to break the cycle of poverty through school-based programs designed to help kids like Alicia, Jurnie, Timmy and thousands of other children who know all too well what it means to go without. Here, we share three inspiring stories of young students who aren't letting the challenges of poverty stand in the way of their education…or their future!
Alicia, 11, from New Mexico lives with her parents and two older sisters in a sleepy, poverty-stricken Native American village that counts a small convenience store among its only sources of income. She has a history of academic struggle, trouble getting along with her peers, and low self-esteem.
When she started fifth grade, Alicia was reading at the level of a second grader. Hesitant to try new things, she initially resisted joining Save the Children's after-school literacy program. But her teachers' persistent encouragement convinced her to give it a chance.
A month into the program, she began attending regularly and has since made a dramatic transformation, maintaining an average of 89 percent on all reading quizzes. These achievements have boosted her confidence and inspired her to continue to challenge herself academically.
The program also provides a positive atmosphere where Alicia can connect with her peers. She explains that now, whenever difficult family situations become too distracting for her, having a laugh over a funny book makes her feel better.
Jurnie lives with her grandfather and younger sister in a low-income community of about 800 residents on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The 8-year-old has big dreams for her future, but her road to success has been riddled with setbacks.
She comes from a financially struggling, unstable home environment and often has to endure long stretches of time without seeing her parents. This lack of stability has led to frequently missed school days and poor performance in class.
Before entering Save the Children's after-school literacy program, Jurnie had significant difficulty reading independently. But despite these challenges, she was determined to persevere and made tremendous gains in her second year of the after-school program.
"She rises to the various challenges in her life and has become very independent," said the literacy coordinator in Jurnie's school, impressed with her achievements.
Jurnie attends the literacy program nearly every day and is reading close to grade level. The program allows her to learn while providing her with a stable and caring environment that nurtures her progress.
"I would be mad if I did not come. I want to read," said Jurnie of her now favorite activity. As for her aspirations for her future, Jurnie loves to care for people and wants to become a nurse when she grows up. Her newfound love of reading will help her get well on her way to making that dream come true.
Timmy is an outgoing 8-year-old who lives in a double-wide trailer with his mother, grandmother, older brother, and extended family in rural Kentucky. Last year, he started first grade performing well below his peers on basic, grade-level reading. However, thanks to his diligence in Save the Children's in-school literacy program, his skills are now on-par with those of his peers.
Timmy's mom, who never learned how to read, initially approached the local literacy coordinator to see how she could help her son. "I have had a hard time in life," she said. "I want better for my child."
Determined not to let her own illiteracy or the family's limited income get in the way of Timmy's success, his mom has worked with the literacy program to provide her son with books and audio books the two of them could read or listen to together at home each night. Unable to afford buying books of their own, Timmy and his family receive reading materials through generous donations and regular visits from the county library's bookmobile.
You too can help children like Alicia, Jurnie and Timmy by supporting Save the Children's education and health programs throughout the United States.