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As students across the country begin a new school year, some children face great challenges. Family crises often force homeless children to change schools multiple times. One shelter is using a literacy laboratory to bridge the gap. Heidi Robinson reports.  

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Atlanta, Georgia)

(Child reading book) “Once upon a time there were three little pigs…”

Actually, there were three beautiful little girls…and their mommy had a problem.

(Child reads) “Along came a wolf who knocked at the door…”

A parent’s addiction to crack cocaine landed the family in an Atlanta homeless shelter. In the midst of crisis, a ray of hope: a reading program that changed the girls’ lives.

Tracie, High School Freshman: “I read faster than I did before, and I don’t stumble over the words.”

Tracie and her sisters entered the literacy program operated in the shelter by Atlanta Urban Ministries, an outreach of The United Methodist Church.

Mayce, Third-Grader: “I didn’t know my words, and I used to get stuck on them and now that Miss Millicent is helping us I know all the words.”

Two nights a week, educator Millicent Green, and a team of volunteers, help children at the shelter tackle reading comprehension and phonics.

(Millicent asks a child) “What letter is this?”

Every school age child entering the shelter takes a reading assessment. Students from third grade through high school walk to the program from their living quarters.

Ginger Cashin, Atlanta Urban Ministries: “Education is the lifeline for them to never be in a situation like this again.”

Eight months ago, Chelsea cried when asked to read aloud. Now she craves chapter books.

(Chelsea reading) “Brown bear was sitting down to breakfast.”

The literacy lab serves 100 homeless children each year. All enter the program reading below grade level.

Alethia Simpson, Mother: “It’s like they had a very low self esteem as far as their work. Now, they’re helping other children read.”

(Mom asks girls) “Y’all read to today?” “Yes!”

After beating addiction, Alethia Simpson will move with her daughters into their own apartment…a new chapter in their own story.

(Mayce reading ) “And they all lived happily ever after.”

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Program participant Mayce is in third grade but now reads at a fifth grade level.

The literacy program is in its fourth year at the shelter.

If you would like more information about Atlanta Urban Ministries, call 404-881-6744.

Also, see: Children learn reading skills in homeless shelter