LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- A local literacy program received recognition from the Corporation for National and Community Service, with a nomination for the Service Impact Award.
The Clara Fields Multicultural Literacy Program is geared toward teaching kids to read before they enter kindergarten. The program teaches kids starting at three and a half.
Jonah Larson is five and just started kindergarten a few weeks ago, but already he reads above grade level, and if you ask him when he started reading, his response, "A million weeks ago," he says.
Jonah actually began reading at age three and a half and he attended the Clara Fields Literacy Program, a ten unit curriculum that starts kids with letter recognition, moves to phonics and decoding words, in hopes that kids will read before they start kindergarten.
"Early age they learn how to swim, they learn how to play soccer, they emulate everything, they know every jingle on television, so why not take advantage of this early window and this early age and teach them something that will ensure academic success?" said Valjean Adams, who started the program, along with her husband.
The program is a non-profit, the Adams started in part because Mrs. Adams, researched what happens to kids who don't learn to read. According The National Center for Education, nearly two-thirds of children who cannot read at or above grade level by forth grade, end up in prison or on welfare.
"There are states that actually budget how many prisons they're going to need, how much money they'll need to incarcerate people in the future, based on the 4th grade standardized reading test results," Adams said.
Mrs. Adams says she knows not everyone agrees with the early intervention method.
"Opponents say it's too early, they can't do it, it's age inappropriate, it's not what a four year old should be doing," Adams said. "I say and research says, yes they can. It is appropriate, it's just two hours a day."
She says if you look at some of her current students, like 4-year-olds Jane and Mae, kids are never too young to learn.
In order to graduate from program, the kids must be able to decode words and know 200 sight words, which are words that don't' follow the rules of letter sounds.
Jonah graduated from Clara Fields in June and says kindergarten is "very, very easy." So he spends reading time with 2nd and 3rd graders. And now his little sister attends the Clara Fields Program.
If you're interested in program, you can click here. There is a fee but tuition assistance is available.
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