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New Chamber Program Aims at Reading Improvement, Core Democratic Values

Business Employee Involvement Program Aims at 8,000 Students K-5

October 6, 2003       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Sterling Ouelette, 10, a 5th grader at Bush Elem, is cheered at the recent BACC event for acting as master of ceremonies, launching the Reading is Bay County's Business Program. (L/R) Judy Bigalke, EHS Reading, Mary Ellen Bluem Bay ISD & Nancy Piotrowski.

The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce is throwing its considerable influence and organization behind a new classroom-based reading improvement and democratic values foundation program for Bay City and area school children.

The "Reading is Bay County's Business" program will supplement the ongoing "Twenty Minutes a Day" program which has been operating for the past two years to encourage parents and others to read to their children, according to Noel Eichhorn, Michigan Department of Education reading consultant, and Dr. David Hutton, superintendent, Bay City Public Schools.

About 200 chamber members gathered for a forum and luncheon Oct. 6 in the impressive new Regional Education Center of Saginaw Valley State University to kick off the program.

Speakers included Jerome Yantz, of Weinlander-Fitzhugh CPAs, one of the sponsoring businesses of the program. "This is not just another program, this will set the pace for these students, who are counting on your support," said Yantz. He asked for organizational commitments from more area businesses to join his firm, S.C. Johnson, Red Lobster, Laser Connection, General Motors Powertrain and Hagen Ford as sponsors.

"Now is the time; let's do it because it's good for the kids," Yantz urged. Yantz said 250 of 400 potential classrooms have already been signed up for the program. About 8,000 students are enrolled in those grades in the county schools.

The federal No Child Left Behind legislation requires 40 percent of all Bay County students to be reading at grade level this year and all students to be reading at grade level by 2013-2014. The chamber's stated purposes of the program are: 1) Improve reading skills; 2) emphasize the value of reading; 3) involve businesses in schools; 4) improve connection between schools and business; 5) provide an opportunity for business to impact key employer needs.

Employers will pledge employee visits to read to classrooms of kindergarten through fifth grade students in Bay County schools from this November through May, 2004. The volunteer reader will be supplied with a book to give to the classroom library.

Themes of the readings are selected Core Democratic Values: common good, justice, equality, diversity, patriotism and popular sovereignty. Issues impacting both Bay County businesses and schools led to the selection of books that address the Core Democratic Values.

Books to be used include, for example: "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs," by J. Scieska, and "The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight," kindergarten level books regarding justice, urging children to take turns and be fair to others. At the fifth grade level, the program will use "Woodrow for President," by P. Barnes, and "If I Were President," by C. Stier, stressing popular sovereignty based on the idea that the power of government comes from the people. Two books are selected for each grade level.

Books for the first year of the program have been provided by a grant from the Bay Area Community Foundation.

Michael Seward, BACC president, credited steering committee chairman Alan Mayes and vice-chair Mike Dewey, along with staff member Pam Clifford and State Rep. Joseph Rivet for helping organize the program.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
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