Mentoring program sounds like a win-win

Published 9:47 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in this space about the Friends of the Library and the work the organization is doing for the Lincoln County Library.

While the Friends are certainly doing their part to maintain our jewel of a public library and encourage involvement with books and reading, another new group has been formed to help bolster local children’s reading skills and, hopefully, instill a lifelong positive relationship with the written word that some day may bear fruit in more Friends members down the line.

Under the management of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentors has established a local program to help children at Mamie Martin Elementary School.

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The effort was announced at a kickoff meeting last Thursday attended by Teecy Matthews, national director of Teen Trendsetters.

Funding for the Brookhaven program comes through the generosity of local donor Marlene Cupit. Bringing the program here was the brainchild of another local resident, Mississippi State University student Laura Lee Lewis.

Both Cupit and Lewis are to be commended for spearheading the plan.

Mississippi Scholars participants from Brookhaven High School will be utilized as mentors for the younger students. Community service is one part of the Mississippi Scholars participants, and what better way to do that than through mentoring upcoming students? The pairing sounds like a win-win for elementary students and high school students alike.

Mississippi has repeatedly been listed at or near the bottom of surveys on literacy rates, and a correlation can easily be made between poor reading ability and high dropout rates. The teen mentoring program should go a long way toward combating both problems.

By joining high school students with elementary school children, the plan gives the older kids a strong motivation to stay in school while they, at the same time serve as positive role models for the younger children.

Teen Trendsetters works with second and third graders who are selected for the program because they have been identified as having fallen behind in their reading levels.

Teen mentors give the younger children one-on-one reading help for an hour a week during the school year. The elementary school children also receive free books to take home.

The mentors receive training that will not only enable them to teach their young protégés but also to become leaders. The mentors are given teaching outlines for 10 lessons that include vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. A Teen Trensdsetters press packet states that elementary school participants have experienced an average of a year of growth in reading skills through participation.

The older students gain too. “By teaching reading, the teens themselves fall in love with reading,” the press release further states. What could be better?

Brookhaven’s program is the first Teen Trendsetters effort in Mississippi, though the organization has been in existence for 13 years since its funding in Florida.

While having teens teach and lead their younger peers reading skills is a great idea, I’d also like to suggest that local civic clubs and church groups also seek ways to become involved in helping mentor our children, if they haven’t already done so.

In two of my previous hometowns, I was fortunate to have been involved in reading mentoring programs through a local Kiwanis Club, and I’m sure there are similar opportunities here for groups to help out.

An investment of time in our future citizens will repay us many times over.

Rachel Eide is editor/general manager of The Daily Leader. Contact her at