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'Building a rapport' | Literacy Mid-South aims to help students after 'summer slide'

With a $4.5 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Education, an organization dating back to 1974 hopes to support students in retaining knowledge.

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — "The summer slide"—it's one of the greatest challenges for students as they head back to class after a long summer break. This "slide" refers to when kids forget some of the skills they learned the previous year.

Students in Memphis Shelby County Schools also don't have much room to slide. Only 22% of students in the district are reading at their grade level. This number for math sits at 13%. 

Still, one organization is working to keep kids on track. 

Literacy Mid-South has been around since 1974, but after receiving a $4.5 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Education, 2022 should shape up to be a year where Literacy gets closer to their goal of achieving 100 percent literacy in the community. 

The grant will help support Literacy's "high-dosage tutoring." Executive director Sam O'Bryant said this method is proven to prevent the "learning slide." 

"The further and the longest time that you're away from these academic learning spaces—for instance, things that we've learned over the school year, tend to become forgotten," O'Bryant said. 

O'bryant said that a student could even lose a grade level of learning if they're not engaged in some sort of academic activity throughout the summer.

The organization is partnering with nine elementary schools—one in each of the Memphis Shelby County Schools board member districts as well as some charter networks. 

The goal is to reach around 750 students, focusing first through third graders over the next two school years.

"We're building rapport," O'Bryant said. "We're building a relationship, and we're also building a rhythm that allows this those students to really connect with that one tutor."

O'Bryant said if parents want their child involved with this program they should speak directly with the child's school. Other options include school tutoring at the YMCA as well as Arise2Read's tutoring program that takes place during the school day. 

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