A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lafayette High School, Picadome Elementary team up to promote literacy through REAL Men Read program

(Photo from FCPS)

The big fish and the small fry blend well in a vibrant partnership between Lafayette High School and nearby Picadome Elementary as nearly two dozen seniors visit the youngsters’ classrooms once a month to share the importance of reading and advice about doing well in school. Their initiative is part of the districtwide REAL Men Read program, which invites community volunteers into elementary settings.

“Anytime we have a guest come in, it’s always fun for (the children) to hear another voice reading. It’s certainly something they look forward to, and of course, they love getting to take the books home,” said Erin Vicini, the lead kindergarten teacher at Picadome.

The relationship, which Lafayette established in the fall, affects the grade K-5 students on several levels. “Our mentor, Mr. John, has told stories about his school experiences and about how he has to study hard in order to play baseball. He’s made real-world connections with what it’s like to be a hardworking student and experience successes in school,” Vicini said. She also praised the high schooler for modeling courtesy and good citizenship, noting, “It’s a positive role model from a school right around the corner from us.”

(Photo from FCPS)

Principal Bryne Jacobs said Lafayette always tries to reach out and work with its feeder-pattern schools, so the launch of REAL Men Read was a great opportunity. He approached senior English teachers for recommendations, and nearly 20 young men now participate. “The kids respond extremely positively to the male mentors, and our students gain just as much from that experience. Even the ones who were intimidated by the process have really stepped up and shined in that role,” Jacobs said.

Picadome assigned each Lafayette volunteer to a grade level, and the teens interact with the same class every time so they get to know the youngsters as they talk about extracurricular activities, college plans, and their identity as a reader. The lower grades also hear an entire book read during each visit, while the older students listen to a chapter or two at a time.

Jacobs noted how the Lafayette students’ personal stories can inspire the youngsters. “For some, they really had to work at reading, and now they’re all very successful high school seniors,” he said. “They can advocate that you have to know how to read to be successful, and for elementary kids to see that is powerful.”

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