> Coopersville, Michigan

HUD Study Book Research shows that if a child fails to learn to read by 4th grade, he is many times more likely to drop out of school, join a gang, do drugs, and/or run afoul of the law. In Springfield Missouri, the county sheriff told a group of clergy that 4th grade reading scores are one of the crucial factors planners consider when forecasting the number of future jail cells that will be needed.

Kids Hope USA seeks to intervene with at-risk elementary school children to help ensure school success. Its mantra is “one child, one hour, one church, one school.” A congregation identifies a local elementary school and approaches it with the offer of partnership through an in-school tutoring program. Kids Hope USA trains a director in the congregation and its tutors. Tutors commit to meeting one hour per week with one student at the school.

Last year in Coopersville, Michigan, 82 percent of the children tutored through Kids Hope made measurable academic progress. Perhaps even more impressively, the Coopersville Reformed Church, which has been operating the Kids Hope initiative since 1998, has a 71 percent retention rate among its volunteer tutors. That means that some lasting friendships form with the kids, creating a platform for emotional and spiritual growth as well as improvements in school performance.

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