Desoto County News

Getting reading help from your “foster grandparents”

Photo: Lashunda Sims with the AmeriCorps Senior Volunteer Program is seeking “foster grandparents” to help in a program to aid youngsters improve reading skills. (Bob Bakken/

If you’re looking to make a difference in a young child’s life and give them a head start to a successful school experience and a step forward in life, helping the child learn to read is a great idea.

The AmeriCorps Senior Volunteer Program is now in need of “foster grandparents,” those above the age of 55, who have some time to work with youngsters struggling academically with their reading skills. 

Lashunda Sims is the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparents Coordinator for DeSoto County with Porter-Leath, the program that serves low-income children and families in the Mid-South. 

Sims said the program is in place in DeSoto County with hopes to expand into more schools.  

“ICS-Headstart and Brown Christian Academy, and we’re currently trying to get a partnership with DeSoto County Schools,” Sims said.  

The focus is on literacy with the program and Sims said the “foster grandparent” volunteers help mentor children in improving their reading skills.  

“At the beginning of each school year, a pre-assessment is done with the student to gather information to see where they are at,” Sims said. “We get that pre-assessment score and, based on those test scores, we know where those students are struggling. Our volunteer is placed in the classroom to help them in the areas they are struggling in.”

Sims added a post-test is done to see the child’s growth and how that “foster grandparent” has helped in that reading growth. Sims says it’s a great difference from the beginning to the end.  

“We want our children to be ready to go to kindergarten, so literacy is our big focus here,” Sims said. 

The only requirements to be part of the program is the volunteer must be age 55 and older and willing to volunteer anywhere from 15-40 hours a week.  Volunteers make their own schedule with the days and hours they are available.  

“We provide a modest stipend and reimbursement for mileage,” Sims said. “We have a couple of events during the year that we honor our grandparents. We also provide car insurance in case you may get in an accident on your way to your facility and back. But there’s also the appreciation of knowing you made a difference.” 

The need to volunteer is there, she said, pointing out that 10 percent of what is needed is currently on board with the program at ICS-Headstart and Brown Christian Acaddemy.  

There’s also a future need if the program expands into DeSoto County Schools, where more volunteers will be required . 

“I think they will try us as a pilot program in DeSoto County Schools with a few students there and if it all goes well we can be with all schools in DeSoto County with at least 2-3 foster grandparents inside the schools,” Sims said.  

For more information, contact Lashunda Sims with the AmeriCorps Senior Volunteer Program at 901-577-2500 or email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *