YMCA Reads!

Student Success Stories


Students who participate in YREADS are referred by the partner schools’ principals, reading or data coaches, guidance counselors and/or students’ teachers. Students are referred to our program based on their performance in reading in the classroom and/or district assessment tests, such as the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) or MAP in participating districts.

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Factors such as students’ participation in the Free or Reduced Lunch or English Language Development Programs are also considered when students are referred to the YMCA READS! mentoring and student assistance program. Each child has a School Referral Form on file indicating the reading level and reason for referral.

Our targeted demographics consist of students from low performing schools or schools with high rates of students reading below grade level.  We target these students in order to help them develop solid reading skills before having to take the Florida Standardized Assessment (FSA) in third-grade. 

Each student enrolled in YREADS is expected to receive a minimum of two hours of individualized instruction weekly.  Each student’s reading level is continuously assessed to provide targeted instruction.  Student’s progress is monitored quarterly through curriculum assessments and school
assessments. But the biggest measurement is by what their families have to say about the program.



Zachary, 9 , came to YREADS as a third grader at Englewood Elementary. He was several years behind in his reading level and was limited to words like “I or me.” Since being at YREADS Zachary can now read sentences well in addition to sounding out words using phonics where before he couldn’t. YREADS has made Zachary feel better about himself where he now initiates reading with his mother and older sister. His favorite activity is to work and read to Miss Kyra,

“Zachary is becoming very confident in class and likes to do challenging work,” She said.


At the start of the second grade, Chylei was enrolled in YReads! at Englewood Elementary. At the start her ability to read wasn't good; She had letter reversals and couldn't identify letters. Now, though, Chylei can put consonants together to make blends along with remembering phonics rules. Chyeli is becoming more confident in her abilities every day. Her focus on homework isn't as much of a struggle as before since starting YReads!. This is all attributed to all the extra teamwork of school, YReads! and home support which is helping her to succeed, said Site Director Amy Morales. 

“We have seen Chylei grow and learn in YREADS! Now she is less shy and more confident in class participation,” Morales said.


Before coming to YREADS Christian, 8 , read very slowly and not well at all. Since then the third grader has had much reading growth and his behavior at school has improved.

“Overall, I have seen a great deal of improvement in behavior, level of reading and desire to read. Where he was once shy about reading, he now willingly participates and wants to lead his group,” Said Amy Morales, his site coordinator.


Madison, a third-grader is now in her third year of YREADS. Prior to coming to YREADS Madison had phonetic issues, and got confused often while reading and writing letters. From the time Madison arrived at YREADS her reading has improved a lot and her behavior at home along with school is no longer an issue.

“Madison has a sweet personality, does her lessons eagerly and has made a good progress in YREADS,” Ware said. “YREADS has helped her self esteem a lot; she enjoys the whole class and frequently tells what she did in class on a daily basis.”


Anthony, age 7, and in First grade started YREADS 2011-12. Anthony had difficult writing in addition to not recognizing some letters. Being at YREADS has made him more interested in reading then before. He has become calmer during writing his homework and reading to others. Anthony now likes to write, use the puppets as well as reading. “Anthony is a very hard working student. This year he has improved his abilities and has graduated from the YREADS program!”


Leigh Anne, 8 , started YREADS as a second grader at Bayshore Elementary in Bradenton. Her reading ability was low because of having congenital Nystagmus, which required her to use special magnifying tools to read. With the help of YREADS Leigh is not only more confident in her reading abilities but has gone up 4 reading levels. Leigh’s favorite activity to take part of at YREADS is spelling. Her volunteer mentor says she is, “very impressed with Leigh Anne’s growth in reading”.


Alexa, 6 , is a second grade student who has found success in the routines established in YREADS. Week-by-week Alexa has shown growth and progress in her reading ability. Her volunteer mentor says Alexa pays close attention to what is being taught, allowing her to comprehend more every week she attends.

“Alexa is a very responsible and respectful student. She really does push herself to improve her reading skills. She realizes she will need reading in her future,” said site coordinator Jenna Ferretti. YREADS has sufficiently affected Alexa’s level of maturity as she continues to show immense improvement. Her favorite activity at YREADS is the online learning A-Z website. This program allows Alexa to listen to the book first, then reads it to a mentor to make sure words are read/said correctly and finally she takes quiz on the book.


Manuel, 9 , was referred to the program in second grade when he was reading at the pre-primer level. Manuel had already experienced failure as he had to repeat kindergarten, but since being at YREADS his academic and emotional growth has been remarkable. Manuel is now reading on grade-level by the end of third grade. On the FCAT reading he scored a 3 in addition to having the third highest score in his classroom.

His favorite activity at YREADS is competing against himself in timed fluency practice. “Watching Manuel grow in his reading skills was an inspiring rewarding experience. I’m very proud of his accomplishments and know he will continue to do well as he goes on to Fourth grade.


Nicole Garcia, 8 , came to YREADS with a reading ability and fluency level of about a first-grade student at mid-year. Since being at the YREADS at Manatee Elementary, she has entered Extension Level with ease, said site director Daisy Galarza.

“YREADS has given Nicole new confidence which has boosted her self-esteem and as a result she is making great strides in the reading program. Nicole is now socializing, is confident, has increased self-esteem and is happier,” said Galarza.

Nicole’s favorite books are: “Nancy’s Fancy Words” and “The Bugs Around Us.”

“She is a pleasant and cooperative young girl and eager to learn. Only a few lessons went by when I began to notice how her confidence made a difference with her learning,” Galarza said.


Jessica Smith, 6 , is a first grader who didn’t recognize any of the letters or sounds of the alphabet. Since attending YREADS, “we’ve seen a terrific change in her willingness to read, self confidence and letter recognition,” said site coordinator Toshia Yates. Jessica’s favorite activity at YREADS is to draw and color, “she is often the illustrator of the stories that are retold,” said her volunteer mentor, who also gives us insight on Jessica:

“Jessica can be a challenge to work with. Her speech impediment and ADHD make her difficult at times. Most mentors are so excited when they are able to have a good productive session with her.”


Denario Bolden, 8 , Denajai Bolden, 8 , and Latavia Turner, 7 , started YREADS as first graders, they will attend third grade this year at Sulphur Springs Elementary School . These three often would fight to have attention for the spotlight in their reading sessions.

There volunteer mentor said, “This would cause disruptions along with frustrations in their learning,” but this year “I noticed when they were matched with a mentor who was consistent in instruction and attendance, the students no longer needed to compete and saw one another as individuals with different strengths and weaknesses.”

The students now support one another in their learning and personal development. They appreciate each other as family in addition to respecting one another. The three students are mindful of their behavior and their academic progress.

Denario likes to choose books with his mentor (Antonio) and read together. Tes, mentor for Denajai has said,

“[she] has noticed a complete turnaround with Denajai’s participation. In the past, Denajai would often get off track in the lessons and have trouble focusing. Now, however, she is connected to the lessons and wants to reach the next level.”  Denajai likes Making Meaning, so she can speak about what she’s read and share with her peers.

Latavia, on the other hand, likes the SIPPS lessons. She wants to be challenged in her quizzes and patterns with words.


Carl, 5 , attending Tiger Academy, came to YREADS having some difficulty with sounds but was able to read some words. Since YREADS, Carl has gained confidence in himself as his family has said, “that their son loves to read now and reading aloud to his little sister.”His teacher is very pleased with the improvements he has made in reading and writing. Carl’s favorite book is Clifford’s Spring Clean-Up. He enjoys working with sound-it-out puzzles and Can Do! Reading Game.

“They love working with their students. They are very pleased with how they are improving…especially when I inform them with FAIR Scores… also how the teachers are very pleased with the student’s performances,” said director Sean Schicker.


Issac, 8 , had a reading level below grade level and his comprehension skills along with word usage were slow before coming to YREADS. Issac now in third grade, is much more focused than most of his peers in the YREADS program as he demonstrates the ability to be both attentive as well as determined to his work. “He’s very respectful. Rarely, do I need to address Issac on his behavior,” said his volunteer mentor. Issac’s favorite topic to talk about is history. He has a twin brother, who as Issac, enjoys talking about dinosaurs.

His mentor agrees, “That issac has the potential and ability it takes to be a excellent reader. He has a very vivid imagination, which can prove to be a benefit if he continues to read more.”


Limavri, 7 , attending Warfield Elementary, knew her letter sounds along with most sight words but she did not like to read and often avoided reading out loud. According to her SIPPS test, Limavri was at level B41. Since taking part in YREADS Limavri has found reading fun. Her volunteer mentor said, “[Limavri  would] speed read explain the whole story to me. Ask me to read the story, then quiz me on my comprehension.”

Limavri’s favorite activity is the SIPPS lessons. At the end of the year she was testing at a challenge level reading above her reading level. One mentor said, “She is really quiet at first, a bit shy, once you get to know her she loves to talk and retell stories.”