Foster Grandparents at Lincoln Hills have been serving incarcerated youth for 28 years. They have been assisting teachers with adolescents who are falling behind, assisting in vocational classes, and spending time in the living units. They bake, plant flowers to help students take pride in their surrounding, and play cards. Though these are enjoyable activities, they also help in other areas like aiding with math skills and increasing their attention span.
In 1997, the Grandparents took on an additional responsibility. Initially the Title One Reading Buddy Program began as a pilot project. It matches a Grandparent with a 14 to 17 year old student whose reading skills range from a 2nd grade level through a 5th grade level. Many have learning disabilities and social issues to overcome. The Grandparent gives individualized attention to the student for one hour daily, four days a week. However, by its sixth month of operation, the Reading Buddy Program became a regular part of the institution’s educational program. There are currently 22 Foster Grandparents participating in the Reading Buddy Program.
The institution provides a classroom with individual private workstations. It has a library equipped with double copies of books labeled by grade level. The student and the Grandparent together pick out a book, and the student reads while the Grandparent follows along. They give assistance when necessary, and the workstations are equipped with a dictionary so the children can look up unfamiliar or difficult words.
During the year 2000, the reading comprehension increased collectively 109 grade levels. The average increase per student was two grade levels; and one student in particular, increased five grade levels in six months. The vocabulary increased collectively by 57 grade levels. The average was one grade level per student in this category. In addition to this, the students received ¼ school credits in language and remedial reading for every 35 hours they participate in the Reading Buddy Program. The students also improved with their social skills after having the personal attention of a Grandparent, and they are excited about their newfound reading skills.