TALLAHASSEE —­ More than 65 high schools in Florida are preparing to open volunteer mentor programs that the sponsors hope will inspire students to become better readers and youth role models.

Recruitment of teen mentors for Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentors programs across the state coincides with the start of a new school year.   This month, thousands of Florida students are volunteering and being trained to begin mentoring second and third graders whose reading levels are, on average, six to nine months behind those of their peers.

The schools include Boyd Anderson, Blanche Ely, Stranahan and Fort Lauderdale high schools in Broward County and Glades Central Community and Boynton Beach high school in Palm Beach.

“There is a saying in education that, up until third grade, students are learning to read and then, in third grade, students must be reading to learn.

“We’re proud of these teens who are helping the next generation to be proficient readers and, thus, helping the next generation of high school graduates,” Liza McFadden, president of Volunteer USA Foundation, which manages the program, said in a statement.

A release from Teen Trendsetters cites a report released this summer by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that said if current trends hold true, 6.6 million children up to age 8 are at increased risk of failing to graduate from high school on time because they won’t be able to meet the national proficient reading level by the end of third grade. 

The study also recommended the benefits of after-school activities that provide literacy enrichment to help children succeed in school.

In the case of Teen Trendsetters, high school students spend an hour a week in one-on-one mentoring sessions with their young mentees, the program said. The sessions focus on a curriculum that meets national reading standards and includes books, worksheets and other educational materials. 

In addition, the mentees receive about 15 books each during the year to start building a home library, as well as  leadership training while learning the value of community service.

For more information, visit teentrendsetters.org. High schools may e-mail info@volunteerusafund.org for more information.