KOREH L.A. the Los Angeles Jewish Coalition for Literacy was created by the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee in 1999 as the Jewish community’s commitment to the literacy movement. Koreh is the Hebrew word for “read”. Inspired by the national literacy movement initiated by President Clinton, KOREH L.A. is non-sectarian, with both volunteers and the children they work with coming from every ethnic and religious group.
The mission of KOREH L.A. is to recruit, train, and place “reading partners” with elementary students, who are experiencing difficulty learning to read. While great readers aren’t always born, we know that they can be encouraged. When close to 80% of Los Angeles’ fourth graders are not reading at grade level, we know that we have an overwhelming problem. KOREH L.A.’s vision is that individuals in Los Angeles, from secretaries to lawyers, from business executives to students, can volunteer their time to help children love to read and develop necessary literacy skills. The volunteers are trained by a qualified literacy trainer in a three-hour training session and commit to work one-on-one, one hour a week, for the school year with a student chosen by the teacher. Over 3000 volunteers work as KOREH “reading partners” with 2000 students in 75 LAUSD schools throughout Los Angeles. Principals, teachers, and volunteers all share the real impact that KOREH L.A. volunteers have on the reading abilities, classroom participation, attendance, and self-esteem of the children.
An active Task Force has also developed a series of new initiatives. The first is a corporate partnership, which seeks to involve L.A. businesses in KOREH’s literacy efforts in a non-sectarian framework. KOREH L.A. has already trained employees of eight corporations, including Staples Center and MiniMed, to become KOREH reading partners. A second project is a book initiative to restock elementary school libraries. Four libraries have been restocked so far, with two more ready to go this fall. A third project, called Pre-K KOREH, plans to reach pre-school children. Working closely with Head Start, volunteers will work with 3 and 4 year olds to prepare them to enter kindergarten ready to learn to read.
The success of KOREH L.A. has been acknowledged in may different ways. In order to secure the continuation of KOREH L.A. after the completion of the seed money provided by the Jewish Community Foundation, KOREH L.A. applied for and received a generous five-year grant from the Winnick Family Foundation. In addition, generous funding from Verizon, Toyota, and the Amado Foundation, United Way, and the Riordan Foundation has also helped.
The idea that children are not learning to read and that therefore their expectations in life are severely diminished, has fired our community to real action. The result has been a program of more than 3,000 volunteers trained and working as “reading partners” for children who need that extra assistance in becoming literate individuals. The goal of helping children learn to read is an effort to create justice and opportunity for all.