Farah's Readers are Leaders
To begin the program, support was sought from local businesses regardless of how small the gift. The Farah & Farah law firm was one of the first in line. “If more businesses reach out financially to build the necessary capital then we collectively can make a definite impact in the community,” Farah says.
Teachers use the Pearson Scott-Foresman exercise method which, according to Burney, is an excellent reading series. In it, students are challenged to recognize words. They must use critical and analytical thinking skills similar to those required by the FCAT tests.
According to Burney, the first class that graduated showed a remarkable increase in reading fluency while reading comprehension skills increased. “Many started to pick up a book and developed a love for learning,” Burney says. She believes reading will develop into a lifelong passion for many of these students.
"Many students come to school with a poor start", says Burney. She notes many students were two grades behind in their reading levels and suffered from low self-esteem. Statistics show 30-40% of students in Duvall County cannot read at their grade level.
Burney and Farah first became acquainted when he helped with truancy issues in several challenged neighborhoods. “We found there were a number of children who were truant because they couldn’t read,” says Burney. Together they came up with the concept for Farah’s Readers are Leaders.
The program aims to help between 50-75 students a year. Burney plans to invite Farah to read to the children.
“I think he understands the power of education and he understands education is knowledge and knowledge is power. He wants to see everyone achieve and make Jacksonville a greater city. I’ve seen his heart and I see his heart now. He is a genuine person,” says Burney
Betty Burney knows what can happen without intervention. She has written the book, “If These Chains Could Talk,” (2005, Adkins Publishing) in which she talks to young men ages 13 to 18 in jail for the rest of their lives for murder. She assists them to become motivational speakers to encourage others not to follow in their path.
Why does he do it? Farah says, “We owe it to the community of Jacksonville. In this firm, more than 100 people make their living and if Jacksonville was not here we would not be here. I feel it’s a debt I owe. Supporting the community gives us all a better quality of life.”