This Goodwill Spotlight shines on Everybody Wins! For over 18 years, Everybody Wins! Atlanta has been devoted to improving the reading skills and developing a love of reading in students who are reading below grade level, giving them a greater chance for success in school and expanding their life horizon. Everybody Wins! started in just one school, but now has a presence in 12 school in five school districts across Atlanta, working with 700 students. Targeted students are of a diverse background in grades one through five, and are identified and suggested to the program by their teachers.
Everybody Wins! schools are Title 1, meaning they are economically challenged. Students in the program work on reading schools, vocabulary, and comprehension. “Currently 2/3 of Georgia 4th graders are reading below grade level, which is consistent across the country,” said Tiffany Tolbert, Everybody Wins! Executive Director.
“The challenge is: students in 1st through 3rd grade are taught to read,” Tolbert said. “Above third grade, they are reading to learn. If a student doesn’t learn how to read well by the 3rd grade, they aren’t learning well beyond, because they can’t comprehend what they are reading.”
Schools interested in the program can reach out to Everybody Wins!, which is adding a new school to their roster this month. To complete the program, Everybody Wins! works with local businesses who are interested in getting their employees involved in a volunteer program. These volunteers spend the lunch hour with the students, therefore not interrupting their regular school day.
These “power lunches,” Tolbert says, are great for companies and a huge gain for the students involved. Students are paired one-to-one with a reader, and sometimes two-to-one. This allows them to have consistency with their reader throughout the year.
Books for the program are provided through drives and donations. Each student receives three books, at the beginning, middle and end of the year. These books are matched to the student’s reading level, and adjusted as the student progresses.
Tolbert said that studies have shown that 3rd grade reading levels have a direct effect on the prison and welfare system. “Of the 2/3 students who are not reading at grade level at the 4th grade, 2/3 of them will end up in jail or on welfare,” she said.
She also explained the economic impact. “We underestimate the importance of reading for our youth,” she said. “A child who cannot read well in the 4th grade cannot become gainfully employed at the age of 18.”
The program has seen success—in 2014, 80% of the program’s students passed their CRCT testing. Students speak highly of the program, their self-esteem, as well as their attendance has been shown to improve.
Tolbert, said that she has enjoyed reading since she was a little girl. She mentioned how thankful she was to be able to align her personal vision and mission with her career. Her favorite book as a child was Amelia Bedelia. As an adult, she loved How to Win Friends and Influence People.
To learn more about Everybody Wins! or to get involved, go to www.everybodywinsatlanta.org.