Community, Creswell, Here to Help

The End of a Chapter

Creswell’s champion of children’s reading retires

CRESWELL – Laurie Swanson-Gribskov started Creslane Elementary School’s Intergenerational Reading Collaboration (IRC) about a decade ago, and she is retiring from the program with her legacy well established.

IRC is a reading program that works with Creslane students from kindergarten through third grade to enhance the students’ reading comprehension and literacy skills, and it seems to be working. According to the school’s end of year statistics, 95% of kindergarteners are at or above their expected reading levels.

The program is based on the Baltimore School District Experience Corps which has been around for over two decades now. It regularly shows better academics, an improved school climate, and better older adult health and well-being.

Eric Cullander, IRC volunteer, said IRC focuses on K-3 because those kids need to learn to read in order to succeed in later grades. Starting in fourth grade, kids are expected to read to learn; they need to be able to learn through their readings, and to do so, they must be confident readers.

“It’s a program like no other,” said Creslane principal Amy Halley. “I’ve never heard of a school having a troop of volunteers who are so dedicated.”

Halley added that it’s impacted student learning in a huge way because, with the help of IRC volunteers, the school is able to create many small group learning opportunities for students.

The program allows adults and children to come together in these elementary school classrooms for small reading groups of about four to five students per volunteer. Prior to entering the classrooms, IRC volunteers are given training and support to be able to effectively help these students learn to read, and learn to enjoy reading as well.

AMANDA LUREY / THE CHRONICLE
Creslane Elementary School planted a rose tree on June 3 to honor Laurie Swanson-Gribskov, the founder of Creslane’s Intergenerational Reading Collaboration (IRC), as she has officially retired. Above is Swanson-Gribskov holding her grandson Ashton, 3.

Swanson-Gribskov said one of the most meaningful parts of her time with IRC has been “outfoxing the bureaucracy.” She said there was a perception that volunteers couldn’t be trusted, that since they do not have a paid stake in the game, they weren’t reliable. She added that IRC has proven itself to be reliable to the point where Creslane teachers incorporate the IRC volunteers into their lesson plans.

To commemorate Swanson-Gribskov’s impact on the Creslane community for the last 10 years, the school planted a rose tree in the garden. Halley said the rose tree was the perfect way to remember Swanson-Gribskov’s commitment to both the IRC and the elementary school since it will bloom year after year, just like the students. She also mentioned that many teachers take their students to the garden to read, so the tree’s location will serve as a great reminder of the IRC’s values.

The school’s fourth grade leadership team helped school staff and Swanson-Gribskov plant the rose tree on June 3. Swanson-Gribskov asked the students if they remembered their IRC volunteers from grades prior, and each of them shared memories of the IRC volunteers that helped them with their reading skills.

Swanson-Gribskov then relayed this to her fellow IRC volunteers to share that their impact was beyond greater than just helping these kids learn to read. They were creating bonds with these students. They were creating happy memories with these students. And these students remembered them by name.

“My heart is so full,” Swanson-Gribskov said.

Swanson-Gribskov emphasized that, although she is leaving the program, IRC is in very capable hands, and it is also looking for more volunteers. She added that IRC is a volunteer-friendly system that allows for people to schedule themselves in a way that is convenient and flexible. For more information on how to volunteer next school year, call Creslane at 541-895-6140.

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