Reading program found to improve academics

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

By Jennifer Holmes

Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Prime Time Family Reading Program celebrated its 20th anniversary with the completion of over 1,000 programs across the nation that have been statistically proven to enhance success among participants.

The program was developed to promote the humanities among at-risk populations by enabling parents/ guardians and children to bond through reading and learning together. The goal is to convert the children into active readers and ultimately create the preconditions for future learning by ending the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy.

Prime Time is targeted toward children ages 6 to 10 and uses humanities-rich children’s literature in conjunction with recognizable humanities themes. The result helps children make a connection between literature and the real world. Prime Time also provides a special storytime model and accommodations for pre-literacy children ages 3 to 5.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Library system has participated in the program four times. Last fall the program accommodated over 21 families and even provided a bilingual storyteller for the first time.

According to Roberta August, branch supervisor of the central branch in LaPlace, Prime Time allows families to bring books home, read them together and return to the facility to discuss the stories in an uplifting environment.

“It really gave the families a bonding experience with literature and reading. It covers things like loyalty, trust and responsibility. It generated discussion among families about those topics,” said August.

The Prime Time program was developed by LEH in 1991. Since then it has conducted 1,083 programs and reached nearly 40,000 students. Specifically in Louisiana, there have been 536 programs with over 20,000 participants. The LEH has invested more than $7 million (approximately $175 per participant) through private, state and federal grants to the development, implementation and evaluation of the program.

In 2010 LEH released data from a 10-year study offering statistical evidence that concluded children who participated in the Prime Time program outperformed in expected areas of language arts skills and reading but also in mathematics, physical science, life science, algebra, number and number relations and geometry.

Therefore, according to the findings, the program’s approach to addressing the problem of intergenerational illiteracy can significantly improve student learning.

“In other words,” said Prime Time Director Miranda Restovic, “Prime Time not only impacts reading, it affects all dimensions of leaning, or as we have maintained, it creates the precondition for all future learning.”