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A local reading programs tackles growing reading skill concerns among Northeast Ohio students

PREP reading
Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 10:37:42-04

CLEVELAND — As the kiddos head back to school, some parents have been questioning is my child ready? Are they behind?

KC and Kara McKenna experienced similar struggle with their two boys. The Northeast Ohio parents

Started seeing signs of reading struggles when their oldest son Henry was in first grade. Then again with their youngest, Roger, not long after.

“You could tell it just wasn’t coming as easy,” said KC.

“I think maybe because they didn’t have the confidence, they needed they kind of shied away from it,” said Kara.

The two tried tutoring and their own at-home methods, but nothing seemed to work until they were referred to Dr. Votypka.

“We have the same challenges that every parent does,” said KC. “Sometimes you think your kid is the best and school is an opportunity to understand you know where they do really well, where they excel and where they have a lot of needs.”

Baldwin Wallace University Dr. Jeannie Votypka, a former reading specialist, says kids K though two are nearly a year behind in developmental reading skills.

“It’s a dire situation and the kids need to start reading. They need to get off the screen and get off of Zoom and get their nose in a book and really start reading again,” she said. “You can’t stop reading at school. You have to keep it going especially those development years from K through two. It’s so important to keep the ball rolling because it builds on their academic confidence as well as their social and emotional confidence. It all goes together.”

In response to the growing need, Dr. Votypka created a reading program called PREP. Nearly 700 Cleveland students participated this summer. Dr. Votypka says their parents already seeing major improvements with results typically seen within the first two to three months of enrollment.

“We were able to get $2,500 from COVID-19 relief funds to 695 kindergartners. So, 695 kindergartners are taking home for books each along with teacher and parental support for reading every night,” she said.

Here’s how the program works:

Once enrolled students get a folder with a reading log inside to take home. Every five times their parents sign off on their daily reading, they earn a reward but not candy. Dr. Votypka says those kinds of rewards do not work long-term. Instead, students are rewarded with more reading like read with a buddy or with the principal.

“It’s a really sort of healthy competition among kids because if one kid gets it another one wants to get it and it’s reading so that’s really the beauty of it.”

The healthy competition is what helped the McKennas who have now watched their boys fall in love with reading.

“It took a couple of weeks, but then…before bed I was like reading when my parents said I shouldn’t be,” said Henry.

To learn more about PREP, click here.