Thelma Vaughn has been retired from teaching for 30 years, but she never really stopped teaching.
Sensing that the needs she saw as a teacher with the Battle Creek Public Schools remained, Vaughn began a program in 2003 at her home church, Second Missionary Baptist that focuses on providing additional support with reading and comprehension for the school district’s first through fifth-grade students.
“It always seemed to me while I was working that there was a missing piece to the puzzle to helping kids be successful in school and life and that was that at-home practice,” she says. “In school, they work on vocabulary and decoding words and reading stories. But they needed to have someone to read to. A lot of students when they left school for the day went home and mom and dad were either working or otherwise occupied. This was not ‘Leave it to Beaver’. There was no one waiting for them with milk and cookies. I thought it would be a wonderful situation if after school we had a comfortable and laid-back scenario where kids could start reading.”
At the same time, the pastor of Second Missionary wanted to offer an afterschool program in the building for kids. He and a woman who had started a similar reading program in Seattle before moving back to Battle Creek wrote a grant to the WK Kellogg Foundation which awarded them $25,000 for the “We Read” program.
“At that time, we had students coming from eight different elementary schools, including Washington Elementary, which was across the street from the church,” Vaughn says.