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Waco students improve reading with STARS Book Club

Posted at 6:20 PM, Feb 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-06 19:20:42-05

WACO, Texas — Waco ISD elementary students are improving their comprehension skills and test scores all while getting excited about the world of reading.

A volunteer/mentor comes once a week to meet with students during their lunchtime to interact and jump into the world of reading.


“STARS Book club started as a way to combine reading and mentoring relationships in a way that would support the reading growth within Waco ISD,” said Director of STARS Book club, Autumn Newman.

Did you know 3 million Texas adults read below a third grade reading level?

That’s one of the jarring statistics prompting the Waco school district to start this book club more than ten years ago — with more than 700 kids involved now, the improvement they’re seeing in reading comprehension gives hope for the future.

“Our goal is to always see if our STAAR test scores are improving,” Newman said.

Between 2022 and 2023, the STAAR reading levels for third-eighth graders statewide were largely unchanged at 52.

But a closer look locally, Crestview third grade reading levels dropped between 2021 and 2022, while fifth grade levels increased.

“A lot of what we’ve been doing is trying to catch up to where we were in terms of what we’re providing to schools with the volunteers that were cut in half in numbers," Newman said.

"Right now, we’re just on that uphill climb again, but we’re looking to see if we’ll see that growth again and that improvement."

Improvement with the help of volunteers, coming in during their student’s lunchtime to interact and feed their interest in reading.

“It gives me a purpose to connect with children," said volunteer and mentor Amanda Schultz.

"I was a stay-at-home mom — I enjoyed my time with my children. I think it’s a way to give back to a community of children who, they may not get that 1-on-1 time with adults outside of a teacher."

Getting them excited on what they’re consuming and what’s their education holds.

“Do you feel like your reading’s gotten better?” asked 25 News reporter Heather Healy.

“Yes,” replied fourth grade student Chelcea Martinez.

“How?” Heather asked.

“I can pronounce more things better without stuttering a lot,” Martinez said.

“It’s really fun and you get to read — you learn and you learn how to pronounce more words,” said fourth grade student Isabella Ganoolza.