CONNECTing with KidsFlint Community Schools Reading Program


According to the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network Fact Sheet, 29 percent of 4th graders in Genesee County are below the State of Michigan’s standard in reading. The link between childhood literacy and adult success, including a link between low literacy and incarceration rates, has been documented. In order to improve the lives of the future generations in Genesee County, many new literacy initiatives are in the works. One of the newest is the CONNECT program.

In December 2017, Flint Community Schools launched a program to help kids learn to read, with the help of a mentor. The CONNECT (Central Office Navigating, Nurturing, Engaging Children’s Talents) reading program pairs the district’s Central Office staff members with first-graders in the reading mentor program created in honor of the late Dr. Jim Taylor.

Dr. Taylor, who passed away in 2016, was a former consultant to the Michigan State University College of Education Office of K-12 Outreach, and mentor to Bilal Tawwab, who has been FSC Superintendent for about three years. At the time of Dr. Taylor’s death, friends and loved ones were asked to make donations to The Jim Taylor Memorial Fund for the Children of Flint, a fund created by Dr. Taylor and his wife. Donations totaled about $5,000.

IMG_34951Inspired by Dr. Taylor’s passion for children, mentorship and education, Superintendent Tawwab chose to use the donations to buy books and create the CONNECT program. “Dr. Taylor instilled in me the value of a powerful mentor, a value that will now be shared with 50 of our youngest learners,” says Tawwab. “I believe the CONNECT program will serve to accelerate student literacy while honoring the passion and values most dear to him.”

According to the superintendent, the Central Office staff is mentoring about 50 first-grade students. “We are really aligning ourselves with the work that is going on in the classroom,” Tawwab reports. “And, it has been an eye-opening experience. The mentors have a newfound respect for what teachers have to do, and it has given the staff an opportunity to support the teachers.”

Once a week, the mentors read with a student and each student gets a new book, Tawwab explains. The kids will collect about 25 books to add to their personal libraries. The participating mentors range from Central Office secretaries all the way to Superintendent Tawwab. “It’s going great,” he says. “I was told my guy was quiet; he’s not quiet at all! We talk to each other and are growing that mentor-mentee relationship.”

Tawwab says the first-graders will be the first class impacted by the Michigan Department of Education’s new third grade reading law. The goal is that the mentors will remain with the students until they reach third grade. “If third-graders don’t reach key reading milestones, they can be retained,” he adds. “With the CONNECT program in place, we are getting a head start on addressing this.”

The district plans to expand the program with support from community volunteers in the years to come. “I would love to engage the community,” Tawwab shares. “I hope the initiative will grow over time. There are so many retired educators out there who would love to have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on a student.”

“It’s going to take everyone – inside and out of school – to ensure that all of our children are successful. That’s how we do school here in Flint.”

“It’s going to take everyone – inside and out of school – to ensure that all of our children are successful. That’s how we do school here in Flint.”
Bilal Tawwab, FCS Superintendent


Photos Provided by Flint Community Schools


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