Reading Team: Keeping Harlem's children on top

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 4/23/2012, 4:38 p.m.

"Once a kid gets into second, third or fourth grade, schools don't have the resources to do remedial training," said Marion. "Classes are large. In third grade, vocabulary needs to double and they need to decode words at a faster rate. If they don't have the word analysis or phonetic skills corrected soon, it could hurt them later on in their lives. Third grade is usually where the gap begins."

The after-school kids come in between 3:30 and 4 p.m. and are offered snacks and help with any homework that might require literacy skills. Afterward, they get to work and are divided by groups according to grade and engage in 90-minute exercises, which, depending on the day, could involve general reading, text analysis or writing. They also spend time in the Waterford Computer Room, a high-tech learning tool used to help kids with letters, numbers and punctuation.

With the rising immigrant population in Central Harlem, the Reading Team also helps those who don't know English very well learn the language. No wonder so many parents want their children in the program.

"Our waiting lists are off the Richter scale they are so long," said Marion. "I think the teachers [and parents] in Harlem are well aware of the issues, and that's why they recommend students to us."

With plans to add an East Harlem or West Harlem location, the Reading Team is serving its constituents with an important need.