Chicago lawyers teach students how to read

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A group of local attorneys are not billing for their time, and the service they are providing is priceless.

Every week, some of the brightest legal minds in Chicago board a school bus and go back to class. Not to learn, but to teach.

Elizabeth Lewis, and about 20 lawyers and staff from McDermott, Will and Emery Law Firm, come to William H. Brown school on the near West Side.

“It’s really wonderful,” said attorney Elizabeth Lewis.

Each volunteer partners up with a third grader for the year and they spend an hour a week reading with the student.

This is Lewis' 10th year volunteering.

And this year, Lewis is paired up with 8-year-old Amarria Houston.

“She’s reading chapter books, she's excited to read aloud,” Lewis said.

“It's really fun,” Houston said. “Sometimes we take turns reading a book.”

About 94 percent of the students here live below the poverty line, and because of the student-teacher ratio, Principal Kenya Sadler says students typically only read to an adult about 20 minutes a week.

However, visits from the firm triple that number.

“This gives our students direct exposure to a person who can read with them,” Sadler said. “And help them with their fluency…and that's tremendous.”

Houston’s confidence has skyrocketed...

“I am really good and my sentences make sense now. And now I can read to my family,” Houston said.

She even set a pretty lofty goal.

“She said that she wanted to read 100 books by the end of the school year, and that she wanted to read 10 books a day,” Lewis said while laughing. “She’s a very excited reader and a very fun student to work with.”

The feelings are mutual.

“I think she is awesome!” Houston said.

Two people who are different ages with different backgrounds bonded behind the pages of a book, which something no book, could have taught them.

The firm's "Partners in Reading" program was put together by the nonprofit mentoring group "Working in the Schools" - or "WITS". They evaluate the students' reading levels and train the firm's staff and lawyers to become reading tutors.

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