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SALT LAKE CITY -- Students, parents and teachers at William Penn Elementary had two reasons to celebrate at a family literacy night. They'd soon find out about a third.
First, dozens of kids served cake to their neighborhood, volunteer tutors. William Penn takes part in KSL's Read Today program, where tutors read one-on-one with struggling students. This school saw some of the most improvement in reading scores of the 70 Read Today schools.
One student said her tutor has helped raise her scores her confidence and her grades.
"It made my grades go up to an A," said Kadi, a fifth grader. "My dad always wanted me to get an A."
Many of the volunteers come from neighboring LDS wards, called as part of their church responsibilities. President Hugh Matheson, second counselor of the Salt Lake Valley View Stake said the program has benefited children and tutors and brings together the community.
"When you come down here and volunteer here for an hour or two, you come back feeling better and happy and excited, " he said. "You learn from them and they learn from you."
The second reason families crowded into the school for a late-night literacy party was the birthday of beloved author - Dr. Suess. PTA leaders had ordered close to a dozen sheet cakes with birthday messages for the author.
Finally, teachers announced a third reason for a party. William Penn's principal had been nominated for a prestigious education administrator award. Patrick Flanagan modestly shied away from the applause. He didn't know if he would win. But he feels like his school has already won by creating a focus on reading and involving neighborhood volunteers.
"They've been willing to step up and help out the students and come in," said Flanagan. "It brings in new life to the school, an excitement about learning."
Every week, Read Today visits schools with Reader Rewards, driven by Big O Tires.