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Through a new literacy tutoring program, several metropolitan area synagogues will be providing congregants to serve as literacy tutors to students in kindergarten through the third grade in Southfield.

Ensuring young students receive the proper tools to be fully literate by the end of the third grade is of utmost importance to school districts across Michigan. Per a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who were not proficient in reading by that time were four times more likely to drop out of high school than those who were proficient readers.

Committed to ensuring Southfield schoolchildren have a strong chance of success, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, a former Southfield Public School Board president, has launched the “Brenda Lawrence Educational Initiative,” a literacy tutoring program in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) and Southfield Public Schools.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence
Rep. Brenda Lawrence Jacqueline Elliott

Said Congresswoman Lawrence, “I am so proud to be a part of this critical initiative that brings together our community to help improve the educational trajectory of our children. It is of the utmost importance that we provide our students with the support they need to succeed in school and gain the confidence to know that they have the ability to achieve anything.”

Through the Initiative, several metropolitan area synagogues will be providing congregants to serve as literacy tutors to students in kindergarten through the third grade in Southfield. Each congregation, including Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Young Israel of Southfield and Temple Emanu-El, will be assigned to a school, with volunteers conducting tutoring sessions virtually for the time being.

Said Charles Hicks, Southfield Public Schools Board of Education president, “I appreciate the partnership and collaboration between the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Southfield Public School District. We must do whatever we can to mitigate any literacy loss as a result of challenges that arise as a result of the pandemic. Together, we can do what is in the best interest of our most valuable stakeholders … our children.”

Added Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin, “According to the 2017 results from the National Assessment of Education Progress, Michigan ranks in the bottom third of states for fourth grade reading. For our organization, it is imperative that we give our local schoolchildren a chance for a bright future beginning at an early age. It is an honor for us to partner with Congresswoman Lawrence and Southfield Public Schools, as well as volunteers from throughout our community, on this important project.”

JCRC/AJC has a long history of literacy advocacy. For more than 10 years ago, the non-partisan nonprofit has served as the administrator for the Detroit Jewish Coalition for Literacy, an umbrella organization that seeks to increase the Jewish community’s involvement in the fight against illiteracy.

For more information and to get involved, contact Sandy Lippitt at slippitt@jfmd.org.

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