Since it began in the Worthington schools four years ago, Project MORE has attracted 400 to 500 volunteer mentors to help struggling youngsters learn to read.
It needs even more.
Specifically, 125 volunteers are needed at Granby Elementary School, where 30 children are on a Project MORE waiting list, mentor recruitment coordinator Kathy Moore said.
The nine Worthington elementary schools that use Project MORE volunteers could use backup help to serve as a cushion when mentors are not available.
Volunteers are expected to give 30 minutes a week to help a student learn to read. The materials and lesson plans are standardized and ready for the volunteers, and the students are ready to start to work when the volunteers arrive.
After a brief training period, volunteers should know exactly how to teach each student.
Some mentors choose to work more than 30 minutes a week, but that is not expected, Moore said.
Students in the program att-end four 30-minute sessions a week, usually with a different volunteer each day. Their pro-gress is charted to keep them interested and motivated, Moore said. "The beauty in this program is its simplicity," she said.
It also is highly effective, she said. It accepts elementary students through third grade who are struggling with reading, and it takes them to the next level.
Project MORE (Mentoring in Ohio for Reading Excellence) is a statewide program that started in 1999. According to an independent evaluation conducted by Bowling Green State University's Center for Evaluation Services, the program significantly increases reading levels of students.
In Worthington, it is geared to students who are not eligible for a reading intervention specialist but who need a little help in meeting reading standards. They are the students who too often "fall through the cracks," Moore said.
With the new state-mandated third-grade reading guarantee requiring third-graders be held back if they don't meet state standards, programs like Project MORE take on even more importance, she said.
"We need to use every weapon in our arsenal," she said.
The payback for volunteers is tremendous, she said. For a relatively small commitment of time, mentors receive back the joy of watching a young child learn to read.
Mentors often are senior citizens but could be anyone in the community who wants to help. Middle school and high school students may volunteer, and sometimes fifth- and sixth-grade students mentor younger children at their schools.
Kristi Mullen is a young mother who works full time, but she still finds time to volunteer with Project MORE for two hours a week.
From 8 to 10 a.m. every Monday, she sits down for four back-to-back mentoring sessions at Worthington Park Elementary School.
She learned about the program when her older son, Patrick, needed help learning to read as a kindergartner. He was paired with a Project MORE mentor and quickly made so much progress that he met his benchmarks, meaning he no longer was eligible for the program.
He's a second-grader this year and is a voracious reader, his mother said. He is disappointed that he no longer is eligible to be part of Project MORE but is looking forward to a day when he could volunteer with the program.
"It gives me so much joy to give back to children and to the school because they helped Patrick," Mullen said.
How did she find time in her busy schedule to volunteer?
"I just blocked out my Monday mornings," she said. "It doesn't feel like work."
To become a Project MORE mentor, email Kathy Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.