DINGESS — School children at Dingess Elementary are avoiding what Educators call ” The Summer Slide.”
Mentors and volunteers are helping school children keep their reading skills sharp and their stomachs full at Dingess Elementary School during the summer months, through a program called Energy Express Reading Program.
The Energy Express Reading Program is an award-winning program offered throughout the state of West Virginia to children in rural areas and with low-income families. The program provides learning opportunities and nutrition during the summer , when most children are vulnerable to falling behind on reading levels.
Olivia Ooten is the program’s director at Dingess Elementary. Ooten described a normal day for the children during the program, “the kids show up about ten in the morning and they get some breakfast, then we spend most of the time until lunch working one on one with the children, after lunch we all get together for group activities like arts and crafts, sometimes we have special guest readers who participate, it’s a lot of fun for the kids.” Ooten also added that you can see the success of the program as the summer goes on, the who couldn’t finish a whole book at the start of the program are reading through whole books now.
Mentors Micheal Baisden and Jessica Haga said ” the program started off slow this year but now we are gaining more kids and everyone is having fun , we usually average about 30 kids altogether for the program. ” Another Mentor Elizabeth Evans said ” this is a really good program for the kids, they really get to be creative, I mentor the younger children, we have a great time painting and reading.”
Individuals who volunteer can earn an educational voucher worth up to $1,250 dollars that will stay valid for seven years. This voucher can be used to help with the cost of college or any other form of higher education.
A collaboration between state and local organizations have made this program possible for the kids. The Mingo County Coal Field Community Action group and The Mingo county Board of Education work closely with the West Virginia extension of 4-H Youth Development Services to provide transportation and funding for the program. Not only does this program help the children but it also provides jobs for those who transport the children and attend to the facilities.
Due to the success of the program The National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University named Energy Express Reading Program one of the best summer learning programs of 2009.
The program is open to any child that qualifies, and children can be enrolled at any point during the program. All that is required to enroll is for parents to fill out the application for the child. These sites are also open and available to anyone under the age of 18 years old who would like a hot meal.
The program is offered at Williamson, Gilbert, Matewan and Dingess for anyone who is interested. Any one who is interested in volunteering or enrolling their child in the Dingess program can contact Olivia Ooten at 304-752-7036 or via email at [email protected]