Volunteers work to prevent students from entering school to prison pipeline

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, October 7, 2023

BOGALUSA, La. – After hearing that 3rd graders were used by prisons to predict how many prison beds they would need, a dedicated Friend of the Library jumped into action. 

Lorraine Bourn of Bogalusa attended a workshop at the local library and learned that, according to the ACLU, prisons create their future budgets based around 3rd grade reading scores. “They look at how many 3rd graders fail reading and use that number to decide how many beds they will need to prepare for,” Bourn said. 

This information shocked her and others who then decided they could not let Bogalusa 3rd graders be part of the school to prison pipeline. She gathered volunteers, ordered supplies and got permission from Central Elementary School to come help out. “Right now there are only three of us,” Bourn said. “We need all the help we can get.”

Starting last week, Lorraine Bourn, Norma Raborn and Tracy Seals set up desks in the hallway of Central Elementary and spent a few minutes with each student in the English Language Arts class going over flashcards. The flashcards are from the Dolch sight word list and include high frequency words that the children see frequently and some words that are included commonly in writing for adults. 

Students that end up missing 10 words will get a list of words to study. Later on, students who can correctly recognize all 520 words will be recognized at a ceremony and receive a medal. “Reading is the key to success,” Bourn said. The volunteers will be at Central Elementary twice a week helping the students to increase their reading skills. 

“We are honored to have the Friends of the Library here to help our students,” said Erin Galloway, the assistant principal at Central Elementary. “The 3rd graders will be taking the LEAP test at the end of the school year and they have to read the test themselves.”

3rd grade English Language Arts teacher Tekie Thomas said that it warms her heart to see the volunteers helping her students. “It’s amazing that they’ve come at the start of the school year and not right at the end. This is going to make a big difference.”

Since Bogalusa City Schools are on a four day week, some students have agreed to meet on Fridays at the Bogalusa Branch Library to do extra work on the flashcards. With this being the first week of volunteering, the group asks that anyone looking to help volunteer to please contact the Bogalusa Branch Library. 

Recently, State Representative Melinda White spearheaded legislation to bring the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to Louisiana. “It was an honor to carry legislation to help increase literacy and early childhood development in the home,” White said.  “The new law and public/private funding partnership will expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to include all children from birth to age five in Louisiana. It’s a win-win for family bonding and literacy!”

About Timothy Holdiness

Timothy Holdiness is a native of Louisiana and has been published in several state, national and international publications. He has earned two undergraduate degrees in Biology, most recently from Northwestern State University in 2022. Notably, Holdiness was the 2014 Microsoft Office Specialist United States Champion in PowerPoint 2010.

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