'Win-win for everyone'
Power Lunch program aims to make reading fun

NORCROSS - A nonprofit organization that promotes children's literacy is starting a mentoring program in two Norcross elementary schools.

This school year is the first time Everybody Wins Atlanta has brought its Power Lunch program into Gwinnett County Public Schools. Through the program, students at Norcross Elementary and Susan Stripling Elementary will each be matched with a person who has volunteered to come to the school and read aloud to a student during lunch, said Terri Beck, the executive director of Everybody Wins Atlanta.

Each volunteer will be paired with one child identified by a teacher as a student with low testing scores in reading, whose primary language is something other than English or who would benefit from consistent and positive adult interaction, Beck said. Students are matched with no more than two volunteers, and the half-hour read aloud sessions take place once a week, she said.

"The idea is for your student to have a consistent mentoring experience - a consistent read-aloud experience," Beck said Monday in a meeting with fifth-grade teachers at Norcross Elementary.

Although Beck said she has identified several volunteers to work with students at Stripling Elementary, she said she is still looking for volunteers to read to Norcross Elementary students. Volunteers will visit the school on Mondays or Wednesdays, and Norcross Elementary will select fifth-graders who could benefit from the experience to participate in the program.

By the end of the year, students who have participated in Power Lunch are more likely to visit the library and take books home to read for pleasure, Beck said.

"Our goal is not to get CRCT test scores up," Beck said. "Our goal is to make reading fun."

Norcross Elementary Principal Dora Hill said she hopes the program will help build a good home-school-community partnership, which she said is "essential."

"It's a win-win for everyone," she said. "For the school, for the volunteer, for the community."

Chuck Paul, the president and co-founder of the mystery shopper provider A Closer Look, said he volunteered to read to a student at Norcross. Paul, who is also the president of the Norcross Business Association, said he thinks the experience will be "eye-opening" and "rewarding."

"It allows local business people to get together with local schools and make a difference," Paul said. "I think the business people will get more out of it than they put into it. ... This is a way to get one-on-one and really make a difference."

For more information about how to become a mentor for Everybody Wins Atlanta, contact Beck by phone at 404-943-0404 or via e-mail at tbeck@everybodywinsatlanta.org.