McCallie School is the first school in Tennessee to join an expanding network of schools in a public service project designed to improve childhood literacy.
The program uses high school students who are studying foreign languages to read and talk in English to children whose primary language is one other than English. In this case, McCallie Spanish class students are assisting Hispanic children at Chattanooga’s East Lake Elementary School.
The program was started in mid-October, and already is showing results, according to Frank Watkins, Language Department Head and Spanish teacher.
He said about 20 McCallie students team up several days a week via a special computer program to assist East Lake students. “This is a great program that provides our students with a needed, real-world experience for using their Spanish skills while benefiting our Chattanooga community,” he said.
On Friday, J.T. Wu, founder and executive director of Preface, the Atlanta area non-profit that promotes childhood literacy, will be at East Lake Elementary School to formally kick off the Chattanooga program and present the school with about 200 multilingual children’s books. The presentation will take place at 1:15 p.m.
Mr. Wu is a 2012 graduate of McCallie and started Preface shortly after graduating from Princeton University. In last year’s pilot project in Atlanta, the participating children moved from being functionally illiterate in English to reading at or above their grade level in 10 weeks. Preface has expanded its network to six states. Its services cover many languages, but the one in Chattanooga is designed for children whose primary language is Spanish.
When it started, Preface teamed with high school foreign language students, who are known as Ambassadors, and sent them to schools and other community areas to read to and talk with children who were struggling with the English language. With the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Preface developed a computer program that allows that interaction via computer.