The Washington School District plans to pilot a community volunteer program aimed at improving literacy in the lower grades this fall.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer updated the school board on the program — Shine By 9 — at its regular meeting last Wednesday.

The Superintendent’s Community Advisory Team was charged with developing the volunteer program that would align to the district’s 21st Century Learning Plan.

Interested volunteers would be trained to help students in grades kindergarten through third with reading. The goal is to have all students reading at grade level by age 9, which is how the name of the program was determined.

VanLeer said volunteers would assist classroom teachers during literacy time in a variety of ways. She said teachers, based on a survey conducted to gauge interest and need, are excited about the program.

Volunteers would undergo background checks in addition to the training,

Eighty-two percent of teachers surveyed said they are “willing” or “very willing” to have trained volunteers and nearly 86 percent said having a student read aloud to the volunteer would be the most beneficial.

Other activities that received high marks are having volunteers work with students on letter and sound identification, comprehension techniques and decoding.

The school board was provided with a draft volunteer handbook which highlights the program, along with other volunteer options throughout the district.

VanLeer said the program is still under development and training communications and document development are under way.

The advisory team also has selected a logo and plans to begin advertising and sharing details about the program soon, she said.