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Education Station: The return of Dickens Reads brings big changes

With a new intervention specialist on board, the after-school tutoring program is seeing major improvements in children's literacy.

CLEVELAND — It's been a few months since we last caught up with the third graders at our adopted school, Charles Dickens Elementary in Cleveland. After a brief shutdown of our after-school tutoring program, Dickens Reads is now back up and running, with some big changes! 

"I think we're finally getting back on track," teacher Brittany Jasinski told us.

After omicron and snowy weather conspired to cancel a lot of sessions in January and February, Dickens Reads has returned to a welcoming staff and student body.

"The children are finally coming back, the bulk of them, and the volunteers are coming back too," says Jasinski — or "Miss J," as her students call her.

We've been following Miss J's third grade class all school year as they try to pass the state reading test. She's seen huge improvements since Dickens Reads began.

"I've seen quite a bit of difference, yes," she said. "I've seen a difference in their confidence, I've seen a difference in their love to read."i.

One of Miss J's students, Janiya, started Dickens Reads at a kindergarten/first grade reading level, but now reads at her grade level.

Another student who is not enrolled in Dickens Reads, 9-year-old Dawon, has also seen his reading ability skyrocket since we last saw him three months ago. His math scores improved, too.

"Because his reading ability is going up, and he's been able to read those questions more, he's more interested in those programs to help his math," Jasinski gushed.

"With Amanda [Lowe]'s program that we've added this year, it has made it so much easier for us and the students," Dickens Reads volunteer Fran Stewart added.

Amanda Lowe is the intervention specialist brought aboard by Dickens Reads this year to assess each student's reading ability and structure the program to fit their individual needs.

"Every single session is catered exactly to their needs, and they are growing each time they're here," she said. "We see improvements each and every session, so we know what we're doing is working."

A small gesture like reading with kids is not only making a difference in the children's lives, but in the lives of Dickens' dedicated volunteers. 

"Honestly, it's some of the most rewarding hours of my week," Abe Orabi said. "When I heard the story on Channel 3, I just felt like it would be a really sad thing for kids to go through their elementary school years without knowing how much joy reading can bring."

We're thankful for community volunteers like Abe and Fran who read to the kids after school for our Dickens Reads program. 3News is a proud sponsor, so email our Director of Advocacy and Community Initiatives Margaret Bernstein at mbernstein@WKYC.com for information on how you can help!

The Dickens Reads effort also receives a great deal of support from local businesses. Thank you to the Chick-fil-A restaurant at Harvard Park in Warrensville Heights, which supplied dinner for the children and parents attending our February Family Literacy Night at Dickens School. 

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