Covenant House Academy Promotes Reading

Through Hope Starts Here

The leaders at Covenant House Academy East and Hope Starts Here are working together on a mission that is dear to both of them: promoting reading.

Covenant House Academy East, located at 7600 Goethe,  is an alternative school nestled in what was once a densely populated residential neighborhood on Detroit’s east side.  Housed in a neatly kept single-story brick building the school has more than 160 students between the ages of 16 and 21 years old, most of them single parents.

The power and promise of reading goes deep into the history of principal Nathaniel King. By looking at the towering 6-feet, 5-inch tall King, you’d think basketball was his passion.  Rather, he has a generations-deep passion for reading.

“When I was growing up, I would watch my dad on Sundays get the big thick Sunday newspaper and sit back and read the whole paper,” said King who now encourages students to read.

He beams with joy when he talks about various ways to get his students to read, and he’s always searching for more ideas.

Working with Hope Starts Here, the efforts are paying off.

“When we started the Hope Starts Here program only 9% of our students were reading at their grade level, now it has increased to 14% of  students are reading at their grade level,” said Carrecia Watkin, Hope Starts Here coordinator at the school.

Other educators at the school have noticed improvements too.\

“I have noticed that the appropriate level of reading material is giving the students a lot of confidence they have never enjoyed,”  said Lorrie Atkinson, a Covenant House Academy reading teacher. “Students have started borrowing books, especially the Tupac Poetry Book.”

Traivon Campbell, 18 year old father and student at Covenant House Academy,  reads to his daughter,  Naomi.

“I like reading to my daughter, for the fact that she always try to look through a book and bring it to me,” he said. “Another reason is for the fact that it’s a thing I think every parent should do.”

Carrecia Watkins said Hope Starts Here has helped students expand their vocabulary and their reading.

“We started Hope Starts Here at Covenant House three years ago to help encourage parents to read more to their children. Many of the students are also parents,” Watkins said.

“Lots of parents got books last year to read to their kids. We follow-up with the parents and encourage them to read, talk, and sing to their children every day,” Watkins said. “Our outreach team meets with the parents once a month.  It has grown from 20 people to over 100 people.”

King said he employs various strategies to encourage reading.  “On Mondays I randomly ask the students, what did you read this weekend?  Some will say a cereal box, the mail, a label; I just want them to read something every day.

“The more they read, the more they’ll want to read.,” he said.

He knows that from first-hand experience. His face lights up when he talks about the Detective magazines and comic books he read growing up.

“I’d start reading and couldn’t put the magazine or book down until I finished. That’s why I ask the kids, what they’re interested in.  If it’s rap, I get them a rap magazine.  Whatever it is I get the book or magazine to keep them interested in reading.”

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