I-Beam was created in 2010 to help students achieve grade-level reading and to foster the joy of reading. I-Beam is an elementary school initiative of the East Cooper Faith Network (ECFN) that provides long-term academic support and mentoring for at-risk children in the East Cooper area schools. One day each week, volunteer mentors meet with their 2nd– 5th grade student for an hour to share their love of reading and encourage socialization skills.
It can be said that a child who is unable to read at grade level by the 5th grade is going to have a tough time going forward – including a higher chance of becoming a High School dropout and a greater likelihood to not be productive in life. To help ensure children read at grade level, the South Carolina Legislature also has created the ‘Read to Succeed Act’ (SC ACT 284) which contains many elements, one of which is not allowing children to proceed to the next grade unless reading at grade level.
Karen Felder, Principal of Jennie Moore Elementary School, who has been associated with the program since its outset said, “I love this program. It is near and dear to my heart. The mentors are fabulous and watching relationships develop between students and adults is so much fun.” The I-Beam program started at Jennie Moore in the 2010 academic year and has grown steadily since. Now the I-Beam program is serving 220 children with 270 mentors in seven schools (Belle Hall, Charles Pinckney, James B. Edwards, Jennie Moore, Laurel Hill, Mamie Whitesides, and St. James Santee). Children are selected into the program based on MAP (Measured Academic Progress) reading scores, free/reduced lunch eligibility or by teacher recommendations. Mentors volunteer their time and come from over 25 faith and charitable organizations. Put in simple terms, the program focuses on reading with One Student, One Adult, One Hour, Once a Week.
I-Beam has become a successful program because it is well designed and managed. To strengthen the program and its volunteer mentors, I-Beam partners with school district experts for advice and reading tips. Adrienne Lauder who is a learning specialist for the school district and helps with training of mentors says, “I-Beam provides a wonderful service to many students in CCSD. I-Beam volunteers not only provide support in reading, but also through the mentoring component that creates long-lasting relationships.”
The annual I-Beam mentor orientations are scheduled for September 19th and 29th at 6:30 pm and September 22nd at noon in Christ Church’s Parish Hall (Hwy 17 N and Long Point Road) in Mount Pleasant. Also, there will be an orientation in McClellanville at the St. James Santee Elementary School on September 26th at 6:00 pm. If you are interested in being a reading mentor with I-Beam, please contact ECFN (www.ecfaithnetwork.org).