Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013

Distinguished Gentlemen BLAZE through Reading in Style

Distinguished Gentlemen BLAZE through Reading in StyleOn the last Thursday of each month, all fifth grade boys and select fourth grade boys walk the halls of Alexander Elementary in their navy blazers and royal blue ties. These distinguished young men are part of the school’s Men Who Read program that challenges boys to read and enjoy books, magazines, newspapers, and other printed materials.

Last summer Damon Qualls, a fifth grade teacher at Alexander Elementary, posted a request on the Donors Choose website explaining that the young men at his school had never had the opportunity to “dress for success” in a blazer and tie. “My students face so many challenges, and they realize that education is the vehicle to drive them toward a more promising future,” he wrote.  “I would love to give them access to a tie and blazer to wear on our Men Who Read days.”

Within six weeks, Qualls had raised about $2,500 from donors as far away as Juneau, Alaska to supplement the school’s Men Who Read program. The money was used to purchase navy blazers and matching ties for program participants.

The Men Who Read program, in its second year at Alexander, welcomes male volunteers from the community to read to male students. The blazers and ties were added to the program in February to create an audience of smartly-dressed-to-impress young men. 

The guest readers, who have included Greg Funderburk from Fox 21 and Jamarcus Gaston from WSPA’s Scene on 7, choose age-appropriate books that they enjoy reading and perhaps have a direct connection to their lives or careers. The mentor readers also encourage students to read aloud from their chosen books.  “With our school’s motto, ‘Learning Today with Tomorrow in Mind,’ these professional male mentors expose our students not only to the value of reading but also the role it plays in all careers,” Qualls explained. 

The impact of the Men Who Read program is showing great promise in improving reading test scores.  “We have already begun to see that our boys are successfully passing Accelerated Reader tests. In fact, boys are being recognized as often as their female counterparts in monthly Accelerated Reader celebrations,” explained Qualls. Noticing that the boys were visiting the media center and checking out books more often, the media specialist received grant money to purchase additional materials to keep up with the demand.

Community leaders are also taking note of the students’ progress.  Mike Burdine, Executive Director of the Salvation Army’s Boys and Girls Club, recently attended a Men Who Read assembly program.  “When I saw the boys all dressed up in their ties and blazers, I saw hope and I saw their future. The most rewarding part is I believe they, for the first time, saw their future as well. Even after the assembly when the boys arrived at the Kroc Center, it was obvious that they were experiencing one of the proudest days of their lives,” he said.


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