HomeNewsRead Team celebrates 9th year of helping students, leadership transition

Read Team celebrates 9th year of helping students, leadership transition

Monday morning was a time of celebration for a number of reasons for The Read Team.

The group typically gathers its coaches – or volunteers – at the end of the school year to celebrate the achievements of the second-graders in Jackson-Madison County Schools they work with.

But this year’s gathering called for a celebration of more.

For one, it was a time to express gratitude to James and Kelly Christoferson, who’d announced their pending retirement after helping get The Read Team started in its original form known as ARISE2Read.

“That was nine years ago, and I just signed up to volunteer to help coach and then wound up becoming the director,” said James Christoferson. “But when the board of directors hired me, they said, ‘We want you to be our director, but only if you bring your wife with you.’

“And it took a few months to figure out our lanes to stay in, but once we did, it’s been an honor and a time of our lives that I’ve cherished working with Kelly.”

The couple are retiring and moving away from Jackson. Their children and grandchildren live in Montana, and so their plans are to head in that direction.

“And it only makes sense since they’re regularly planning trips there to see their family,” said Matt Marshall, the director of United Way of West Tennessee. “So as sad as we are to see them go, we definitely understand why they’re leaving us, wish them well in this next season of life and thank them so much for all they’ve done for The Read Team.”

The organization’s name change came in 2021 when United Way brought it under their umbrella of services for students in JMCSS. It was during that time when they unveiled the WOW Wagon that is a mobile library that allows kids to get books from their vehicle and read during the summer.

The program recruits volunteers to sign up and spend an hour a week with a second-grader somewhere in an elementary school in JMCSS, and they work on learning 300 sight words that help children read at the level they need to be reading going into third grade.

The program helped 141 students this year, most of them have tested well enough that they’re ready for third grade learning. Eleven students gained more than 200 sight words through the year. Of those 11, seven are third-grade ready with the other four being close.

James Christoferson said there was one student who entered the school year last fall knowing fewer than 10 of those words. By the end of the school year, he correctly identified 298 on a test.

By the end of the celebration, Marshall announced the new people who will serve in the roles directing The Read Team.

Melissa Workman and Jasmine Miller will be the new directors for The Read Team, overseeing different areas of it according to their skillsets.

“The hiring committee and board interviewed both of these candidates, and it was obvious they were both ideal for the job for different reasons,” Marshall said. “So I asked, ‘why not hire both?’

“And that’s what we did.”

There will be a transition time as the James and Kelly Christoferson will stick around through the summer to coordinate the WOW Wagon and to help the new leaders learn intensively about the organization.

“We’re looking forward to working with them, and we know they’ll do great things for Jackson and the school system and most importantly the children The Read Team serves,” James Christoferson said.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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