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National Guard Mission: Helping Hoosier Pupils Learn to Read

State Fair visitors look over a selection of children's books from the "Books and Boots" program. (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
 
The Indiana National Guard is getting ready to launch a second year of helping Hoosier students learn to read.
 
120 Guardsmen volunteer an hour-and-a-half a week to visit elementary schools and read with, and to, kindergarteners through first graders.
 
Lieutenant Colonel Shawn Gardner says along with obesity, trouble reading is the biggest childhood obstacle to growing the Guard's future recruit pool. He says helping students now helps both the state and the Guard.
 
Sergeant Major Rick Weber points to research warning that students who aren't reading at their own grade level by third grade are unlikely to ever catch up. 
 
The Indiana Department of Education worked with the Guard to identify about 40 schools with low reading scores and a lack of local reseources. 
 
Guardsmen in the "Books and Boots" program leave behind the books they read with the kids, a fraction of thousands donated by the Scholastic publishing house. Guard troops visited the DOE booth at the State Fair to hand out more to fairgoers.
 
Weber says there are no data yet on whether the program has been effective. He says last school year's frequent snow days disrupted efforts to measure the program. He says the Guard and educators will work to establish measures of success this year.
 
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