April 24 — 12:20 pm, 2017

Center City lawyers help Spring Garden School students improve their reading skills

img 0797 Courtesy Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott

Every Tuesday during lunch, excited 2nd graders from the Spring Garden School pour out of the elevator doors at the Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott law office and run toward their mentor for an hour of one-on-one reading.  

More than 30 attorneys and staff professionals at the firm volunteer their lunch hour to mentor students from the K-8 school and to help them improve their literacy skills. The partnership – which is an annual activity between the Center City law firm and the school – began in March during National Read Across America Month, and will extend for the school year.

Staff of the firm act as reading coaches, meeting one-on-one with students to make the mentoring more personal.  Sometimes a group of professionals work with one student who is struggling with reading and dedicate more time toward improving their literacy skills.

Morris Reich, the 2nd grade teacher at Spring Garden School, said that the school is very fortunate to have this partnership. .  

As a result of the literacy coaching the students have been getting, Reich said that “my students now try to finish their assignments early so that they could pull their books out from underneath their desks and spend the remaining time reading.”  

The law office professionals also enjoy spending time with the students.  Every year, Eckert Seamans law office looks towards meeting new 2nd graders and helping them improve their reading skills.

“Even as a mentor, this opportunity is a learning experience on both parts.  I get to see a whole different perspective of a child’s mind and understand what’s important to them, when they choose adventure stories over fairy tales,” said Bobbi Jacobs-Meadway, attorney and co-chair of Intellectual Property Group at Eckert Seamans.  

During the hour, mentors allow the students to pick out their books and have them read it aloud.  When students stumble on hard words, the volunteers encourage them to “break the words into little parts,” “pronounce the words slowly,” and to not “be scared to sound a little funny.”

“This whole experience is not just about helping kids to read… It’s about fueling a child’s mind and their own interests – whether through reading, coloring, or solving puzzles.  It’s about preparing their young minds for the future,” said Jacobs-Meadway.  

Synciere Myers, a 2nd grader at Spring Garden School, looks forward to this meeting every week and continuously picks animal books out of the law office’s book cart, which is a mini-library of more than 60 children’s books donated by the firm’s attorneys for the students.  He reads loudly and confidently to his mentor, Toxcinia Whitney, who loves seeing his reading skills improve and his interest for reading grow.  

“Myers and I have read this animal book more than once since the start of this school year, but I love the book and I can see that he loves it, too.  With every week, his confidence in reading grows and he’s choosing longer books to read with me now!” said Whitney.  

Albert G. Bixler, Member-in-Charge of the Eckert Seamans’ Philadelphia Office, loves the laughs and high energy levels that fill the office when the students come for mentoring.  

He said that most children don’t often receive this opportunity in school or even at home.  But through this partnership, arranged as part of Philadelphia READS, students who participate in the program have significantly enhanced their reading skills, performed better in the classroom, and developed a great interest in reading, Bixler said.  

The students travel to the law firm on a school bus with their books. Besides reading, they may spend time coloring pictures or sharing school stories over snacks and juice boxes with their mentors.

Eckert Seamans is a member of the Philadelphia READS Power Partners Program that provides literacy enrichment, mentoring, and career education for almost 12,000 Philadelphia Public school students in grades 1-3.  Other partners include the Dow Chemical Company, Independence Blue Cross, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.      

“Our office becomes a whole different environment, and we love it!  Just as we’re teaching them, the kids are also teaching the life lessons most of us have forgotten… how to slow everything down, whether in reading or with life, and to take all things into a fresher perspective” said Bixler.


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