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Fresno Nonprofit Helps Kids Read. With More Volunteers, It Could Have a Bigger Impact.
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By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 2 months ago on
March 1, 2024

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Every Neighborhood Partnership provides in-school literacy mentoring in 19 Fresno Unified Schools and after-school reading programs in eight.

Literacy is a focus of the nonprofit because the futures of children, and their communities, depend on how well children can read.

ENP is focusing a showing of “The Right to Read” documentary at the Tower Theatre on Monday.


Fresno Unified’s year-old Literacy Initiative aims to boost kids’ reading abilities so they have a better chance at academic success.

But the district is not flying solo. Its literacy efforts have been augmented for years by the Fresno-area nonprofit Every Neighborhood Partnership, which links businesses, churches, and other groups in efforts to strengthen communities and the region.

“Literacy rates predict the future of the children, and the children predict the future of the neighborhood,” says Jenessa Cheema, ENP’s school support director.

The nonprofit provides volunteers for two school-based programs, Literacy Mentor and Read Fresno After School.

And those programs have gotten good results, Cheema said. Testing of students’ reading comprehension, including knowledge of high-frequency words, show a marked improvement from the start to the end of the school year, Cheema said.

And that’s no accident — Every Neighborhood Partnership’s programs are designed to build on the lessons that students are already getting in class, she said. ENP uses some of the same curriculum as Fresno Unified so there’s continuity for the students.

Helping Kids in Grades K-6

Although the focus initially was on children in younger grades, since the pandemic ENP has expanded its literacy programs to include older elementary kids whose reading skills are lagging.

For students in kindergarten through second grade, the focus is high-frequency words and phonics, while in grades 3 through 6 the focus shifts to fluency, she said.

Children are assessed so volunteers can “meet them right where they’re at,” Cheema said. “So if it’s a fourth grader reading at a first-grade level, they’re going to do first-grade work with that fourth grader to hopefully catch them up.”

The nonprofit now provides volunteers for 19 schools, serving about 700 students with one-on-one literacy mentoring, she said. Many of the volunteers are Fresno State students who can help out for a semester.

Interns run the after-school Read Fresno program at eight school sites, and they are primarily Fresno State work-study students and from College Corps, Cheema said.

Volunteers Needed

ENP used to have more older adults who volunteered through their churches, but that pool dried up somewhat after the pandemic. If the nonprofit had more volunteers, more children could be helped, she said.

How to Help

To volunteer to help children with their reading, click on this link.

Schools are doing great work, but the more support they can get from the community, the better, Cheema said.

“We partner with a lot of churches, but we’d love more businesses,” she said. “We work with a lot of college students really just realizing our schools need more support. And how can we help, and do support in a good way that is actually leading towards targeted outcomes and not just like, ‘Here’s another adult. Hope it helps.'”

‘Right to Read’ Documentary Scheduled

Given the organization’s efforts to improve literacy, it’s not surprising that ENP is co-hosting a showing of the documentary “The Right to Read” on Monday at the Tower Theatre.

It’s the second local showing in as many months. The Foundation for Fresno Unified Schools partnered on a screening at Fresno High School in February.

Monday’s screening will start at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion at 8 p.m. The event is free but audience members are asked to register at this link. Spanish-language translation and childcare will be provided for those who pre-register.

Cheema said she saw the video in June 2023 and was moved by the stories of parents and community activists who consider literacy to be a civil rights issue.

“It’s really powerful,” she said. “I think it helps open people’s eyes to that it’s not just a Fresno problem. Obviously, we’re talking about Fresno. But it is a national crisis, and what are people already doing around this? How can we collaborate together around this?”

Cheema said Every Neighborhood Partnership had previously partnered with other nonprofits on literacy programs, and so it was natural for them to band together to co-sponsor Monday’s screening.

Every Neighborhood Partnership volunteers work with students to support reading curriculum in 19 Fresno Unified schools. (Every Neighborhood Partnership)

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Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

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