Green Eggs & Slam

The School of Reading, a newly developed nonprofit aimed at helping children learn to read, is hosting a Green Eggs & Slam fundraising event at Maddawg Center in downtown Kernersville on August 27.
Justus Berger, owner of The School of Reading and an elementary education teacher with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS), said he recently started The School of Reading with the hopes of helping struggling students.
Going into his third year of teaching, Berger came up with the idea for The School of Reading several years ago when he learned how important it is for students to read just 20 minutes a day.
Berger said he had been substitute teaching at roughly 10 – 15 elementary schools when one day he walked into South Fork Elementary School (SFES) and saw that something was very different.
“Instead of all the students screaming in the cafeteria during lunch, they were quietly reading,” he said. “Under Principal Joanell Gatling, who really advocated for literacy, the school moved from an F to a C.”
At the school, Berger said he worked under EC teacher Kathy Jackson, who taught for 42 years.
“She had me read with the kids for 20 minutes a day, and the change that I saw in these kids was astounding,” he said, noting that he was her teaching assistant for two years.
Berger explained that when students read just 20 minutes a day, they learn 10,000 new words a year and are in the 90th percentile of testing.
“That’s the biggest thing that I have seen – test scores,” he said. “I had a couple of kids go up a whole grade level and I attribute that to getting kids excited about reading.”
After learning more about how reading 20 minutes a day can impact kids, Berger decided he wanted to start his own private school that would be free to low-income students, provided by fundraising, grants and private donations. He said the school would be for five first grade students, ideally, and feature a new set of students each year.
“It would be for kids who struggle with reading, and we would have intensive instruction in reading,” he said, noting that he would focus on students in special education and ELL (English language learners) from low-income areas. “It would be a full-time, year-round private school.”
Berger said he also wants to help boost literacy in Forsyth County by giving away 100 books a month to students in low-income areas and areas of low literacy; however, he doesn’t want to give away just any books, but popular, high interest books for elementary age students, such as Dog Man, Dr. Seuss books, Marvel Comics books, and DC Super Hero Girls books.
“These are extremely popular among elementary students, and a lot of kids don’t have access to quality literature in low-income areas,” he said.
Berger said there is a strong correlation between literacy and incarceration as he shared that a local judge came and spoke with students at SFES.
“The judge told the students that prisons are built based on the reading level of the third graders in a given area, basing that on how large of a prison they need to build,” he said. “That’s why this is a big passion for me. If you can’t read, you can’t work and crime increases.”
Berger said he hopes to have The School of Reading up and running within three years.
“I want to be able to impact literacy in Forsyth County and I want to get kids excited about reading,” he said.
Berger also said parents wanting to encourage reading should be intentional about the books they purchase.
“The text that you select is very important,” he remarked.
The first fundraising event Berger is hosting will be a professional wrestling event, known as Lucha Libre, at Maddawg Center in Kernersville on August 27. This is a series of professional wrestling matches.
“If you come, you’ll be able to see Big Bite and Big Time Yah,” Berger remarked. “The first 100 kids get a free Dr. Seuss book.”
He added that those interested can purchase tickets online before the match for any donation amount they wish. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the show; however, general admission on the day of the event is $15.
For more information or to purchase tickets before the show, visit www.facebook.com/VIVOLUCHALIBRE. Other events will be held on September 24, October 22, and November 20. Maddawg Center is located at 900 East Mountain St.
To make a donation towards The School of Reading, search “The School of Reading” when you visit www.gofundme.com.

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