Nora Stewart Early Learning Center introduces new literacy program

Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 5:50 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When a member of the Minority Men's Network walked into the Nora Stewart Early Learning Center and asked manager Cheryl Howard what the kids needed, Howard's replied: "positive male role models."

Friday morning, the network will launch a reading program for preschoolers between the ages of 2 and 5 at the learning center on East Ash Street.

A press release from the men’s network said the program aims to improve the literacy rates of the children as well as provide responsible role models.

“Some of the children have no access to books at home and perhaps no one reads to them,” said Robert Ross, president of the Minority Men’s Network.

When the men’s network first began plans for the reading program, 10 to 12 members immediately volunteered to read out loud to the children. Ross said that each volunteer will work with the learning center independently to schedule reading sessions.

Howard said that although the center hasn’t told the children about the program, the teachers are all aware of it and are very excited.

The network’s press release also stated that the learning center has expressed a need for donations of children’s books that the students can have for independent reading  because many of them don’t have access to books at home.

Ross said that the network has been donating books but encouraged donations from others. He asked only that the books be age-appropriate, since the children are just beginning to read and aren't at elementary school reading levels.

Ross himself plans to read to children at the center at least once a week. He said each session should last about 15 minutes. He also said that the Network plans for the program to be long running. “As long as there’s a need, there’s no end in sight,” he said.

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