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Students to CLIK with cats over books, instill love of reading

By Kevin Hong

Ever wanted a cat on campus, but you weren’t allowed to have one? Want to spend more time with kids? Well, CLIK Cat might be just the club for you. This new student group will help second grade “cats” who have been identified as needing extra help in developing their reading skills and/or in becoming more interested in reading.

“We go into schools like Fairview Elementary School and Bailey Park Elementary School in Grinnell and help second graders who have been identified by their teachers as not being interested in reading or struggling with reading,” said Nicole Robertson ’14, one of the organizers of the club. “So we pair college students with our second grade ‘cats.’ We call them cats because we thought it would not make it shameful or embarrassing to be called out of class to get extra help.”

CLIK stands for Communities for Literate Iowa Kids, a branched program initiated by Iowa Association of School Boards that supports high achievement for all children by policy research and setting up educational projects, including CLIK Cat. The program is funded by the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, “assists donors in efficiently and effectively supporting non-profit organizations that make life better for people in the area,” according to the Foundation’s website. The project is unique not only because it aims to help kids feel more confident and passionate about reading in a low-pressure, student-facilitated environment, but also because each second grader can work with and get to know his or her own college student over the course of four weeks to six weeks.

The student group organizers, Robertson and Pavlo Nikolaidis ’14, applied for the program after hearing about CLIK through the work-study community service program.

“We’ve had several students who are interested contacting us, and we are still waiting for the elementary school to decide on what time would work best for them and which kids they would like us to work with, and then we can pair them up,” Robertson said. “So we hope that will be really soon, but it will definitely be in full form next semester.”

As a participant, students will come to the schools and meet with their respective cat for two hours, twice a week, but the actual schedule will be flexible. The meetings will take place over a 4 to 6 week period of time with one child, then the students move on to work with another child.

“What’s cool about second graders,” Robertson said, “is that they are starting to really put meaning to their readings, not just word by word, but something like a story that can be meaningful. We believe it’s important to start early and hopefully instill a love of reading into these kids. Reading is important in so many aspects of life.”

Nikolaidis explained the long-lasting impact the students can have over the short period of time by instilling a love for books.
“If we can help them get this love for reading, they are going to learn to read really well on their own, more than we could teach them in four weeks,” he said.

Through CLIK Cats, Nikolaidis aims to build a collective group of students on campus working to improve second graders’ reading abilities.
“We hope this will be a strong group activity even though they are working individually,” Nikolaidis said.

The club looks to hold future meetings with college students.

“We will brainstorm ideas, and perform whatever ideas that people come up with,” Robertson said. “We already registered as a club, and we hope it will be able to continue on when we are not spearheading it.”

Currently, the club is looking for volunteers.

“Right now there are about 10 people who showed interest, and we wish to have as many as we can handle. And we’re hoping to expand it to third, fourth, fifth graders, or even middle school students,” Robertson said.

Needless to say, the organizers are enthusiastic about the start of the program.

“I think it’s a great way to be creative,” Robertson said, “being with kids has nothing to do with grades, but is more about the loving of doing something.”

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