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Read to Grow: Community reading program boosts scores in Bartow Co.

For one local school district, volunteers make the difference when it comes to literacy

BARTOW COUNTY, Ga. — For Bartow County, the start of a new school year comes with a special call for the community to get involved, and one Bartow granddad knows the impact volunteering can bring..

"It's just one way I can give back," Seth Brown, volunteer, told 11Alive, surrounded by a group of elementary school readers. 

Giving back is part of "Read to Grow," a community reading partnership where volunteers join the district's first grade classrooms in an effort to close the gap when it comes to reading skills. 

"Statistics show that if they aren't reading by third grade on grade level, it's hard to catch up," Kristy Mitchell, Read to Grow coordinator, said. "Because before that, they're learning to read. After that, they're reading to learn."

"We were looking into ways to get the community involved and we were discussing it and this came about," teacher Francie Brown said. 

Read to Grow launched last year with a pilot at four schools.

"It's hard to reach every single student every day with the diverse levels we have," Mitchell said. "So it's another adult in the classroom that can help with our students."

"Just someone outside of the classroom cared about them was a huge deal to the student," Francie Brown said. 

The success turned into a call for more help, coming straight from Bartow County School System Superintendent Dr. Phillip D. Page.

"They more than doubled the reading composite of our system average," Page said. "We have no choice, we have to reach out to our community even more. We've got to get about 500 volunteers to cover all our elementary schools."

"We have our community come in and support teachers, that means the most to them," Mitchell said. "Because it's hard. We know what our teachers are going through every day and what they have to face."

"It's like having a grandparent there for our students," she added, "You can't replicate that."

"It's so heartwarming to do this... my grandkids all call me 'da,'" Seth Brown said, "And after a year, everybody in school knows I'm 'da.' You get it back." 

For more information regarding volunteering, contact Read to Grow coordinator Kristy Mitchell via email: Kristy.mitchell@bartow.k12.ga.us.

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