reading rockets

Zerik Samples, Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority chief development officer, reads a book to students in the Head Start program, where Reading Rockets plans to expand their program.

The Head Start preschool program in Brunswick hopes to help children have the best start possible.

The federally-subsidized program, which serves nearly 300 students at the Glynn County center, provides early learning that prepares students for kindergarten.

The Marshes of Glynn Reading Rockets, a local volunteer reader program, shares this mission.

This year, Reading Rockets plans to expand into Head Start and have volunteers read weekly to students there.

“We want to expand into Head Start, starting in September,” said Linda Muir, a co-founder of the Reading Rockets program. “What we need to be successful in that is another barrage of volunteers.”

The program is run through the Marshes of Glynn Libraries but supported and funded by the Rotary Club of St. Simons Island.

Muir, chairman of the Rotary Club’s literacy committee, recently connected with the club’s new member Zerik Samples, who serves as the vice president of development for the Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority, which runs the Head Start program.

The pair hatched the idea to expand Reading Rockets into Head Start. The program is now seeking volunteers to sign on and support the effort.

Volunteers will be required to undergo a background check through Glynn County Schools, which will cost about $50, and to receive training.

Volunteers read to students for an hour once a week. They meet with the same groups of students throughout the school year.

The Reading Rockets program, which started in 2010, began through volunteers solely from the Rotary Club. It has since grown to include — and depend on — volunteers from the community as well.

The program started in FACES preschool. It has since expanded to include the Imagination Room at the Boys & Girls Club and St. Simons Elementary.

The plan is to replicate the FACES program at Head Start.

Reading Rockets is targeted toward at-risk children from families in the lower socioeconomic areas.

“The data shows that children who live in this situation have very little exposure to books and very little exposure to vocabulary,” Muir said.

Without an intervention in their early school years, the students will fall significantly behind their peers, Muir said.

“By the time they get to pre-K, which is age four, they will have exponentially fewer words in their vocabularies than children who are in middle class homes,” she said.

Head Start serves many of these students. The Reading Rockets program will be beneficial there, Samples said.

This new partnership will provide community members with a chance to come into Head Start and make a difference in students’ lives.

“It takes a village to help any family,” he said. “As we extend our reach into the community, we would love to have more volunteers be a part of it.”

People wishing to volunteer can contact Geri Mullis, director of the Marshes of Glynn Libraries, by calling 912-279-3734 or emailing gmullis@glynncounty-ga.gov.

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