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At Home, Family Matters

Volunteers needed for local elementary school reading program

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It is no secret how important literacy is to a child’s future. What many people do not know, however, is that there are a large number of elementary school students in the United States who are struggling to gain the reading skills they need to succeed in the classroom. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 88 percent of fourth graders from low-income communities in California are reading below grade level.

People in your community are working to change this trend by helping students gain the literacy skills they need to thrive in the classroom and escape the cycle of poverty. They are doing this by volunteering with a literacy nonprofit program called Reading Partners.

Reading Partners matches struggling young readers with volunteer tutors who work one-on-one with students to improve their reading skills and give them the confidence they need to thrive in the classroom. The mission of the organization is to help children become lifelong readers by empowering communities to provide individualized instruction with measurable results.

Reading Partners was founded in 1999 by three women in Menlo Park who saw the need for a literacy intervention program in their community. The program now spans 65 elementary schools in five states across the United States with more growth planned in the coming years.

This school year, Reading Partners volunteers in San Francisco will work with over 400 students to improve their reading skills. Reading Partners runs literacy programs at eight elementary schools in San Francisco including one reading center in the Marina District at Sherman Elementary School (1651 Union Street).

Carlo Delgadillo is an AmeriCorps member who has committed to a year of service with Reading Partners. Since September, Delgadillo has enrolled over 65 students in the program at Sherman Elementary. Thanks to the amazing support of their tutors, these students are learning critical phonics and comprehension skills that will help them become stronger readers. Tutors are paired with the same student each week, creating a mentoring relationship that further benefits the students.

There are many students at Sherman Elementary School still waiting to be matched up with tutors. “Our reading center is always in need and looking for new tutors,” says Delgadillo, “The diverse backgrounds of our tutors make them adaptable and allow them to relate to students beyond the school setting.”

Reading Partners tutors come from a variety of backgrounds – from working professionals to parents, retirees, and students. There is no previous experience necessary to volunteer. Reading Partners provides all the training on how to use their structured curriculum and offers the guidance of a full-time AmeriCorps member running the program on site. Tutors are provided with an easy-to-follow curriculum and all needed materials.

“The students appreciate the time they get to spend with their tutors and teachers appreciate the reading support we provide to each student served,” says Delgadillo.

Reading Partners tutors are asked to commit to just one 45-minute tutoring session per week but are welcome to take on additional sessions. After just 25 hours of tutoring, most students advance an entire grade level in reading and begin to show more confidence in the classroom.

If you can give 45 minutes a week to help a young reader, or would like to make a donation, please contact Glennis Coursey at gcoursey@readingpartners.org or 415-713-6163. For more information about Reading Partners, visit www.readingpartners.org.

[author]Glennis Coursey is the outreach coordinator for Reading Partners of San Francisco.[/author]

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