Alcoa teams up with Bettendorf school to boost reading skills

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One of the Quad Cities' largest employers has collaborated with a local school whose students are struggling with reading comprehension.

Educators at Neil Armstrong Elementary in Bettendorf realized they needed a plan to boost their fourth grader's reading s kills. Under the guidance of United Way, Neil Armstrong Elementary joined forces with Alcoa in an effort to boost student's reading comprehension. Nearly 20 volunteers from Alcoa, one of the Quad Cities' largest employers, visit Neil Armstrong Elementary every week and read one-on-one with a student, play games and spend constructive time together.

The program is called "Read with Me." It began in October 2014 and is expected to last until January 2015.

"Our fourth graders have the most students who are non-proficient in reading out of all the grades in our building," said Dr. Lisa Stevenson, Principal at Neil Armstrong Elementary.

Stevenson added that the state of Iowa's Board of Education is honing in on reading fluency, and they are optimistic the "Read with Me" Program will assist in getting fourth grade students to read a grade level.

"What this does is it gives students a model of a fluent reader," Stevenson continued, "Students are getting that really focused one-on-one opportunity to hear a fluent reader."

In the school's library, Alcoa employee Brandon Chaison sits at a table next to fourth-grader Cristian Ralston. They read about the history of Cristian's favorite NFL football team, the Oakland Raiders.

"It's just a pleasure to see him learn, him smiling and actually learning about something he likes," Chaison said.

Chaison remembers when he was in elementary school and volunteers would help him. He attributes that help to his success.

As Chaison and his student read together, they occasionally share a laugh, a sign that these two may not be so different.

"We have a lot in common," Chaison said, smiling while looking at his reading buddy.

It's just one bond that's been formed through the "Read with Me" program, and educators said they look forward to the end result.