Delaware reading program honors fallen state trooper

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

(Nichelle Polston/WHYY)

The wife of fallen Delaware State Police Trooper Corporal Stephen J. Ballard, is honoring the memory of her husband through a children’s reading program.

It’s called Ballard’s Reading Buddies, which will pair adult volunteer readers with children. Louise Ballard whose husband died in the line of duty in April said reading was one of  Stephen’s favorite things to do.

“Stephen had a love for children and education that included helping young students be more academically prepared for their respective grade levels,” Ballard said.

The pilot program kicked off at Southern Elementary School in New Castle where volunteers met with first-grade students.

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“For me I wanted more of a personal connection where you have someone come once a week, you can put a face with a name, you can have someone who’s also sort of like a mentor but instead of calling them a mentor, we’re going to call them a buddy,” Ballard said.

The program is being sponsored by United Way’s Reading Angels program, where the focus is improving children’s reading skills. Twenty-five people have signed up including Ballard.

“I am a buddy. I will have two buddies actually so I will be here every Tuesday at Southern,” Ballard said.

New Castle County Executive Mike Meyer and United Way of Delaware, President Michelle Taylor are also among the long list of volunteers. According to Meyer, the program reminds him of his past job.

“Before I ran for office I was a sixth and seventh grade math teacher and you’d be shocked how many 6th and 7th graders in the state of Delaware in New Castle County have difficulty reading and by the time you get to 6th and 7th grade if you can’t read then you can’t do math either, Meyer said. It’s vitally important to the future of our communities that we make sure all kids are reading and all kids are reading early. It’s the job of everyone.”

“We’re focused on ensuring that our young people can read on grade level by the end of third grade and we know how important that is because up to third grade you learn to read and then you read to learn and so it’s important to set a strong foundation,” Taylor said.

The program will run from September to May. Anyone interested in signing up is asked to contact Jamee Boone of the United Way at 302-573-3795.

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