Star Student

"Ask Luke Beal what his greatest accomplishment is and the Star Lake Elementary School sixth-grader will say it's improving his reading level.Dramatically improving, that is.In the fourth grade Luke's reading score was far behind his classmates. He struggled with reading and making out words in class and on take home assignments. Results of reading tests revealed Luke's reading level was at the second grade.I didn't like the feeling that I was having a second-grade reading level, Luke said. Going through school would be kind of hard that way.And hard it was. Luke practiced diligently with his parents and his teacher, but it wasn't until the extra help of AmeriCorps reading volunteer Emily Christensen, that Luke really understood reading.Four times a week for nine months the two practiced sounding out words, reading and re-reading. Luke and Christensen began from the lowest reading level and gradually worked up to more complex words and sentences.Luke started off the year with (low) reading test scores and a negative attitude toward reading, Christensen said. By the end of the year his scores were up and his attitude toward reading had really improved.Luke said it was tiring and frustrating at times but he knew the payoff in the end would be the reward of not only knowing how to read well, but also understanding and comprehending what he read.His accomplishment earned him a Youth Excellence Award from the city of Federal Way.I felt like I was getting something done, he said. That felt nice. It was cool.After months of reading and practice, Luke took another reading exam. It showed he could - and was reading at his grade level. I was amazed, he said. I thought something was wrong with the test scores.Never before did Luke think he could read at the level he should or read the way many of his classmates did.If you do what your teacher tells you, he said, you actually learn something.Luke also says that his parents were particularly proud of him. They helped him through the process by reading the library books he brought home with him.Though he is doing well in reading, Luke says his favorite subject is history. He likes learning about what people did long ago, the problems they faced and how they dealt with them just as he dealt with his reading challenges.I did my work and it finally paid off, he said. Now I feel that when I try I get something done and when you get something done, you feel good about yourself. "

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