"Woodside Reads is probably the best kept secret in Austintown," claims its coordinator, Kathy Kane, a 10-year veteran in this position. "Our volunteers are so dedicated and dependable, they do most of the work for me."
She was referring to 16 community folks who give one or two hours each Wednesday morning to work one-on-one with Woodside second- and third-graders. Some need help with the reading portion of books, some with comprehension and pronunciation, and others just need a caring adult to work with them.
In existence since 2000 as part of the Gov. Bob Taft's project called Ohio Reads, Woodside Reads has survived being unfunded by another governor and the lack of funds from the school to continue it, and now thrives being underwritten by the Rotary Club of Austintown. The school provides space in auxiliary trailers, and the teachers cooperate with Kane to service an average of 40 students a week, each having 30 minutes with a tutor.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Woodside Reads volunteer include, in the front row: Linda Sarver, Evelyn Roth, Pat Mancino, Sandra Schrode, Muriel Baranick; in the back row: coordinator Kathy Kane, Sam Fasline, Rich Murray, Gary Reel, Errol Dietrich, Frank Santisi, Michelle Grazier, and Diane Koch. Missing from the photo are Ed Conroy, Dave Schnurrenberger and Pam Lillo.
"I try to keep it fun for both the students and mentors, and both come willingly and look forward to the next time together," said Kane, a long-term Lowellville teacher.
Woodside School moved from continuous improvement status to excellent in the last state report card -- a huge leap, said Principal Tim Kelty, who attributed this jump to many components, but added that Woodside Reads is certainly a part of their success story. Some of the volunteers have been there since the program started in 2000, while others are new, but the spirit of learning is alive in the Woodside Reads space.
Rotary President Deanna Spirko is among the past and present Rotary leaders who have continued to fund this program, earning a Rotary District Literacy Award for this project and others last year.
"We also give a dictionary to every public and parochial third-grader in Austintown and Jackson Milton each year since 2000," she said, "and a library book each week to the Woodside School library in honor of our Rotary speakers. We have enjoyed our partnership with Woodside School."