Thank You Winston-Salem Foundation

Thank you to The Winston-Salem Foundation (Bill Johnson Trust to Benefit Stokes County) for a generous grant which will help us pay for our Reading Horizons software renewals.  Thanks to gifts like this we are able to continue our work.

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Thank You Dollar General !!!

A huge thanks to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation for a $3,000 adult literacy grant which will enable us to double the number of adults we are able to serve with Reading Horizons software.


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Thank You !!

Thank you to The River Foundation, the Apple Foundation (Ben Vernon, Sr. Trustee) and The Winston-Salem Foundation (Bill Johnson Trust to Benefit Stokes County) for significant grants in 2012 which have enabled us to purchase ten user licenses for Reading Horizons software and two laptop computers which will allow us to reach more students than ever before.  We are making a difference thanks to you.


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Article About Buffalo Creek From The Stokes News-9/6/12

Organization Promotes Literacy in Stokes County

by Meghann Evans
Managing Editor The Stokes News

 For around a decade, a local organization has been quietly serving struggling readers in the area, helping ensure that all Stokes County residents have the opportunity to become successful readers.

Buffalo Creek Literacy Project, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is completely run by volunteers and serves residents of Stokes and eastern Surry counties. The organization has primarily focused its efforts on adults for the past decade, but now it is expanding to serve more children. Services are free to adults and children who want to learn to read or to improve their reading skills, and their participation in the program is kept confidential.

In the fall of 2011, Stokes County school teacher Mary Lee turned the job of director over to Jeff Pratt, a former educator and private school administrator from Florida who taught for three years at Southeastern Stokes Middle School in Walnut Cove. As director of Buffalo Creek Literacy Project, Pratt hopes to expand the project’s efforts working with children.

“Nearly one in five students has some difficulty learning to read,” he noted. “I truly believe that catching students by third grade who are experiencing reading difficulties, and being able to augment what their teachers are already doing for them, provides the best long-term solution to illiteracy.”

In the 2011-12 school year, Buffalo Creek worked with seven students at a local elementary school. Pratt said these students were all reading below grade level, but between the instruction they received from their classroom teachers and the added help from twice-a-week tutoring, students experienced significant growth.

Pratt said, “At the same time, we must continue to help adults who are also struggling to read. We have the opportunity to help them change their lives in a very real and substantial way.”

The organization has relied on the help of many Stokes County residents who serve on the board of directors and as tutors. Long-time Buffalo Creek board member John Hartman states in a news release: “In earlier generations, it was possible, although never easy, to earn a living and contribute to the well-being of the community without well-developed literacy skills. Farming and manufacturing, for example, afforded many opportunities that are less readily available today.

“I have known many folks for whom, in earlier times, the willingness to work hard, combined with a wealth of good sense, was enough. For better or worse, we are no longer a society that provides economic opportunities based on those qualities alone. The ability to read and write are important in every aspect of life.”

Right now the organization is serving 14 children and nine adults through 13 tutors. Pratt said the volunteers with the organization have the goal “to identify as many students as they can who would benefit from Buffalo Creek’s services and then train enough volunteer tutors to accommodate those students.”

Pratt said, “We take a lot of things in life, like reading, for granted. To understand how different life would be as a non-reader, imagine that all the print around you was in a strange language you didn’t understand, and then try to imagine how you would succeed in school, work or do the simplest things like order food at a restaurant. Imagine how not being able to read would make you feel about yourself.”

Buffalo Creek Literacy Project sees high success rates, but students and tutors have to be willing to commit to the program. Typically, services are provided twice per week for an hour each session and will extend for multiple years. Buffalo Creek primarily uses the Wilson Reading System, which was originally designed for adults but also works well as a supplement to the curriculum that is currently being used in Stokes County elementary schools, Pratt said.

While all tutors volunteer their hours, the training materials are costly. It costs about $250 to equip a tutor with the materials they need to work with a student, Pratt said. Initial tutor training takes about 12 hours to complete.

The organization was founded by Mary Lee around a decade ago. She explained, “I teach English 6-12 and have taught special needs math and English, too, but never understood why such otherwise smart kids had trouble reading.”

“I knew the difficulties were not the students’ fault,” she continued, “and I did not want to only teach those who find reading easy.”

Lee said she knew there had to be an answer to the fundamental question of why these smart children had trouble learning to read.

“If some can take an engine apart and put it together again, can understand higher-level math, can often wax eloquently about music and scientific concepts, then why are they struggling to read?” she asked herself.

So Lee began to explore answers to why some people struggle learning how to read. She learned from scientists with the neuropsychology department at Wake Forest University that dyslexia is usually the cause of reading and writing difficulties and that it is correctable. The dyslexia is inherited and is not related to intelligence, she learned. A two-week intensive workshop in Chapel Hill put her on the path to understanding how educational therapies could help correct neural-processing problems in the brain. Successful use of the Wilson Reading System with children led her to try the system with adults in the literacy program, and Lee said the results have been astounding.

“Now, if students and tutors are consistent and do indeed follow the instructional directions, everyone learns to read,” she remarked.

With numerous projects on her plate, Lee decided to turn over leadership of the organization to Pratt last year, though she continues to work with the project. She feels confident in his ability to lead the organization.

Pratt said, “I am very passionate about the mission of Buffalo Creek Literacy Project and want to see illiteracy in Stokes County become a part of the past, the only way it can be done — one reader at a time.”

The organization is always looking for students and tutors. Pratt says to potential volunteers: “It is as rewarding a thing as I’ve ever done … We will provide you with all the training and support you need.”

Pratt tells those who may be embarrassed to request services from the organization that they have nothing to be ashamed of. He says, “It’s no indication of your intelligence. (Reading is) just a skill that will open doors for you.”

If you would like to volunteer as a tutor, know of someone who would benefit from Buffalo Creek’s services or would like to make a tax deductible contribution to Buffalo Creek Literacy Project, contact Jeff Pratt by phone at 336-816-7758, by email at, or by mail at P.O. Box 626, Germanton, NC 27019. More information can be found online at


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Elementary School Project – Year 1

We’ve had an excellent first year working with eight primary grade struggling readers in one of our local elementary schools.. Phonemic awareness scores increased by 30%, word attack skills increased by a full grade level, sight word recognition increased by 161%, and spelling scores increased nearly a full grade level. Those numbers are even more significant when you take into account that we are working with the students who were identified as struggling the most with their reading. Thank you tutors, teachers and administrators for your hard work and wonderful support.  We’re on the right track!
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Join Us in the Fight Against Illiteracy

  • Change a life!  Volunteer to tutor an adult or child.
  • Make a tax-deductible financial contribution.  It costs about $250 to train a tutor.  Send your check to: Buffalo Creek Literacy Project, P.O. Box 626, Germanton NC 27019
  • Support your local schools and their efforts in reading instruction at all levels.
  • Read with your own children.
  • Spread the word.  Start the conversation about literacy in your own neighborhood.
  • Learn more.  Start with the links on our home page.
  • Call or email Jeff Pratt at 336-816-7758 or



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Literacy in Hard Times

Because I’ve spent so much time in the last few years teaching reading, both to individuals and to small groups of students, I have seen first-hand the toll that struggling to read takes on adults and children. Through the teaching process, you learn a lot about the students you’re teaching and consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the issues that haunt them because they cannot read as well as those around them can. Almost every struggling reader has developed low self-esteem, the natural consequence of struggling to do something that most around you do not struggle to do. Because the inability to read well is so pervasive and impacts almost all aspects of one’s life, that single area of weakness overshadows significant strengths which every student that I have taught has. Part of the trick of teaching students to read is to focus on those strengths so that, even as they learn to read, they rediscover their own belief in themselves.

I recently saw some statistics that made me think about some of the broader societal issues surrounding literacy, especially the link between poverty and illiteracy. The Census Bureau recently released statistics (released in November of 2011) about local poverty in 2010. In Stokes County, the percentage of people living in poverty was 14.3%, up from 11% in 2005. That represents about 1,750 more individuals in Stokes County living in poverty in 2010 than in 2005.

Among school-age children in Stokes, the percentage rose from 14.1% in 2005 to 19.9% in 2010. If that number is accurate, that means that we are teaching over 40% more students impacted by poverty, today than we were just five years ago.

Economic hard times have affected all of us in recent years in some way, but they are impacting these students in ways that I don’t think we have given significant thought to. Poverty and literacy are inextricably linked. It is well documented that a student raised in poverty struggles more to learn to read than do their more advantaged peers. Students who leave school as poor readers are less likely to succeed as adults and are more likely to live in poverty as adults. According to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (another study is due in a few years), 41% of all adults at the most basic level of literacy (Level 1) live in poverty, compared to only 4% of those with the highest level of proficiency (Level 5). It is a cycle that constantly perpetuates itself.

When we teach students to read, we are helping to change their lives in a very personal and significant way. In a broader sense, we are also changing the world in which we all live. As economic hard times continue, it is more important than ever to increase our efforts to teach adults and children to read.

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What Are Some Signs of Dyslexia?

  • Difficulty reading single words.
  • Difficulty decoding nonsense words.
  • Inaccurate and labored oral reading.
  • Trouble with small function words.
  • Slow reading.
  • Poor spelling.
  • Fine motor skill difficulties.
  • Reading avoidance behaviors.
  • Delayed spoken language

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What is the Definiton of Dyslexia?

Dyslexia – Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and a reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

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Facts About Literacy


According to the National Coalition for Literacy Adult Literacy 2009 Factsheet:

  • There are 759 million adults, about 16% of the world’s population, who only have basic or below basic literacy levels in their native languages.
  • Two-thirds of the world’s lowest literate adults were women.
  • In the U.S., 63 million adults, or 29% of the county’s adult population, don’t read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level. An additional 30 million adults, or 14% of the adults in the U.S., can only read at a fifth grade level or lower.
  • 43% of adults with the lowest literacy rates in the U.S. live in poverty.
  • More than 65% of all state and federal corrections inmates can be classified as low literate,
  • Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.


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