Volunteer Andrew Marston and Tyler Lacefield talk before starting to read for Bright Futures' Page Turners Program on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, at Arkansas Middle School in Texarkana. (Staff photo by Mallory Wyatt)

Approximately 30 students and an equal number of volunteers gathered in the library of Arkansas Middle School to read together Wednesday afternoon.

The gathering was the second meeting of the newly minted organization Bright Futures’ Page Turners program, which pairs a student and a volunteer.

“In order to become a fluent reader, you have to hear fluent reading, so you can mimic what you have modeled for you,” said Thelma Forte, director of instruction for Texarkana Arkansas School District.

Forte said the program motivates students who are attempting to improve their reading fluency and comprehension. She said it’s important for even a high school student to get 15 to 20 minutes of reading a day with an invested reading partner.

“I think for kids, it’s having someone on the other side. They’re checking the unknown words; they’re asking, ‘Do you really understand what you’re reading? Do you need extra help with the vocabulary?’” Forte said. “But the beautiful thing is, when you trade places and they read fluently for you.”

Forte said students who have been in the program so far have increased their fluency scores.

Program volunteer Andrew Marston, pastor at Cathedral Heights Church of Nazarene, said he learned of the program when attending a breakfast meeting for Bright Futures.

“When I saw an opportunity to get involved at the middle school and invest in future readers, I was all about it,” Marston said.

Tyler Lacefield, Marston’s student reading partner, said the Page Turners program was fun so far.

Principal Kendrick Smith said he has seen the fledgling program bring new confidence to his students.

“Hopefully we’re going to see a lot more of that confidence inside the classroom as well,” Smith said. “Just having someone come in to spend some time with some of our kids who don’t have that individual who is willing to commit that extra time, just being able to put them in that environment is amazing.”

Bright Futures chairperson Jocelyn Kemp said the organization was formed in March.

“There is a huge need in our school system that the teachers and staff, they just can’t do it all,” Kemp said. “We have, as a community, proven time and time again, that we can come together for great things.”

The organization was founded in order to bridge the gap between students and much needed resources, such as food, clothing and school supplies.

The Page Turners group meets once a month on the second Wednesday at Arkansas Middle School. To learn more, visit either Bright Futures’ Texarkana, Arkansas, Facebook page or the TASD website.


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