Two-thirds of all students who cannot read at a proficient level by the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare, according to begintoread.com. Kankakee is no stranger to this statistic or the damaging effects of poverty.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Kankakee is above the Illinois average in all poverty trends. Those who suffer the most are the children born into poverty – that’s where Youth for Christ (YFC) steps in.
Local community members are stepping up and volunteering their time to help decrease the illiteracy rate. Of the many ministries YFC offers in the area, one relatively new program is Mentoring One Student Towards Success (MOSTS). It is a tutoring program in literacy for children first through sixth grade.
MOSTS meets from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the school year at the City Life Center in Kankakee. While the overall goal of the program is to further develop literacy skills in students, a relationship between
the tutors and students is strongly encouraged.
A tutor is assigned one student to work with for the entire duration of the program to build a more personal connection. The tutors also work as mentors and provide the student with a new friend.
“These kids don’t necessarily have the best home life. I think this program is very important because the kids can get a chance to see some good role models,” tutor and program organizer Marta Franseen said.
Challenges tutors face sometimes include personally connecting with students, as not each student is receptive to new teachers, and determining each student’s particular reading level.
“These kids deserve to have someone tell them that they are smart and that they can do it,” Franseen said. Not only does the program work inside the classroom setting, but several times throughout the year field trips are scheduled to reward the students for their hard work.
–Whitney Welch, contributing writer