Southeastern NEWS Southeastern Louisiana University Public Information Office SLU 880, Hammond, LA 70402 504/549-2341/fax 504-549-2061 Date: 6/19/97 Contact: Carol Dotson 25 SLU LAUNCHES TUTOR PROGRAM FOR YOUNG CHILDREN HAMMOND -- Students, faculty and community members found out about the local leadership role Southeastern Louisiana University will play in President Clinton's America Reads Challenge when SLU hosted the satellite downlink of U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley's Town Meeting Tuesday June 17. The meeting focused on the topic, "Ready to Learn: Preparing Young Children for School Success." Southeastern's president, Dr. Sally Clausen, talked with audience members before the downlink about their interest and reasons for coming out. The reasons varied from students who's teachers requested they come to community members who were interested in making a difference in the community. Clausen assured the group that their input would provide an opportunity to make a difference. "You'd be surprised at the difference fifteen minutes a day can make in the life of a child," said Clausen. "You will be a source to reinforce for parents how important it is to read to and with their children, something many parents don't realize." During the televised meeting Secretary Riley stressed the importance of parents' roles and early interventions. The town meeting hosted a panel of experts who spoke on the importance of stimulating and nurturing of young children. Panel members suggested that simple things like talking, listening, reading, playing and encouraging are important for young children's development. The panel also stressed that learning is not an event, but a process, and that nutrition and health play an important role in a child's ability to learn. Following the telecast, those attending had the opportunity to sign up for the tutor training session and receive materials. Program coordinator, JoAnn Robisheaux, reminded the audience of the America Reads Challenge goal -- to ensure that all children can read well and independently by the end of third grade. While some funds have been assured for 25 work/study students to tutor, Robisheaux underscored the need for more volunteer tutors as well. "We're asking the volunteer to commit to two times a week for 30-60 minutes working primarily with children in grades Pre-Kindergarten-3," Robisheaux said. "We're asking them to come to an evening or Saturday training session where we'll be training our tutors on how to -more- tutor/add one reach the kids, learning strategies and study skills, how to select books and also how to teach the children to select books. We'll also have support meetings where tutors can bring any questions or problems they encounter and share solutions and needs. We're starting small, but we'll be very thorough and will give them all the guidance needed to make a difference in a young persons life." Bobby R. Showers Sr., pastor of Rose Valley Baptist Church in Roseland was anxious to get started. "It's a worthwhile program. I understand the need, I see it all the time at the elementary school where I volunteer," Showers said. "Many of the teachers have told me about their students' struggles. I've personally seen the result of not learning to read with the older people at my church who won't come to Sunday school or bible class because they can't read. I plan to involve as many people as possible and starting early and getting to the problem early is important." Tim Penton Jr., a Hammond police officer, thinks the program is a great idea and believes an increase in literacy in our society would have a positive effect on the crime rate. "I think 99.9 percent of the people who commit crime were probably bad students. Reading is so fundamental and important. Sometimes people get frustrated while learning and end up not being able to do it. It's a good thing to start young," Penton said. "I'm glad I ended up coming tonight" said Dr. Jessie Howard, a retired secondary and college level teacher. Howard agrees that the program is very much needed and the younger we start the better and including parents is also important. "We need to work with the parents to get them involved. We have children with children- no one has taught them how to be parents, how to help their children learn. This is a good start." Emphasizing the importance of volunteering, Dr. Randy Moffett, Southeastern's provost and vice-president for academic affairs, said,"We want our students and graduates to understand that throughout life you give back. Service is a part of our educational mission. Through programs such as these, we're learning to do service and that's a part of good citizenship." While speaking to the group, Clausen pointed out the work of a Southeastern professor, Bob Titzer, who has done research in teaching young children to read. "Just seeing Dr. Titzer's work, it is amazing to see what the brain can absorb in a learning, caring atmosphere. An earlier start can make a difference and our emphasis with the program is early learning. This is a great beginning, a great combination of people. Hang in there and I'm sure you'll all be pleased with the results." # # # *Anyone interested in volunteering can contact JoAnn Robisheaux at 549-2230.