The school year is almost over, but the SMART reading program is already looking for volunteers to help young readers when classes are back in session this fall.

SMART, which stands for Start Making a Reader Today, is now in its 26th year in Oregon. The nationally-recognized, statewide nonprofit uses a network of volunteers, educators, donors and advocates to inspire children to read.

The organization is recruiting volunteers during the summer so they can undergo background checks and training, ready to be scheduled in mid-valley schools for the fall, said Kari Rosenfeld, area manager. 

Volunteer readers work with children in preschool through third grade, reading one on one with the same children each week. Twice a month, students are allowed to choose their own book to take home.

In Linn County, Rosenfeld said, 50 SMART volunteers read with more than 100 students, who took home more than 1,400 books. Statewide, SMART served nearly 11,000 children across Oregon.

Readers and site coordinators are needed so the organization can determine which schools will offer the program this fall, Rosenfeld said. 

SMART is aligned toward the third-grade reading benchmark because research shows that children who aren’t reading at grade level by third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school. According to state statistics, more than half of Oregon’s third-graders are not meeting state reading standards.

The program's mission is to make reading fun, which will encourage children to do more of it, and to give them access to books of their own so they'll keep practicing at home.

For more information, volunteers are asked to visit www.getSMARToregon.org or call the organization at 541-753-0822.

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