FAQ

COVID-19 response

If you have other questions related to COVID-19, please feel free to contact us.

Is Reading Partners continuing to provide one-on-one tutoring to students during the public health crisis? If not, what is Reading Partners doing for students? 

As of March 16, 2020, all of our reading center sites have been closed for tutoring, and all of our partner schools are currently closed, until further notice to ensure the health and safety of the communities we serve. Despite these current closures, we intend to provide any and all services to our students if/when it is possible to safely do so. We have a detailed re-entry plan should schools reopen for the remainder of the year. Additionally, we are aggressively pursuing innovative ways to support our students in cases where we remain unable to support them through our traditional tutoring model. A couple of the innovations that we plan to immediately offer all students (not just Reading Partners students) include (1) an online repository of expertly crafted literacy tips for families to use in the safety of their own homes, and (2) an opt-in texting service called Bright by Text offering 75 content-rich text messages aimed at parents to support literacy development at home (the platform is free — texting and data rates may apply). We are cultivating a number of other innovative program solutions and we will share communication about them as they become available. In the meantime, our blog remains a valuable resource and we have many relevant and timely topics planned for the coming months.

As we operate in 13 regions each affected differently by COVID-19, our additional support services will be tailored as appropriate. We remain committed to adapting in every way possible to continue our mission of empowering students through early literacy.

Is Reading Partners still recruiting volunteer tutors for the 2019-20 school year?

Given how much we’re learning about the spread and implications of the virus on a daily basis, it’s simply too early to know at this point. If schools are able to reopen, some regions may continue recruiting volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up or email us at volunteer@readingpartners.org to see if we are accepting volunteers. 

We do hope that individuals will consider committing to tutoring as soon as schools open (even if it isn’t until the 2020-21 school year) so that we can continue to serve students who need our services more than ever. 

How is Reading Partners making decisions about the health and safety of staff members, AmeriCorps members, volunteers, and students as long as the public health crisis persists?  

Reading Partners is operating out of an abundance of caution to keep our students, schools, volunteers, AmeriCorps members, and staff safe. We are continually monitoring the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 guidelines and will respond to any changes in current status and adapt to suggested modifications to behaviors or our operations during this time. Our regional teams are following all state and local government suggested actions, including working from home in accordance with social distancing recommendations, and they are communicating regularly with our partner schools and school districts to stay apprised of any school closure/reopening decisions or local health concerns.

Who should volunteers expect to hear from about the status of tutoring?

Local teams will continue to communicate safety procedures and updates to all volunteers, staff, and AmeriCorps members. As operational changes occur (reading center closures, reading center reopenings, etc.), our regional teams will keep volunteers informed.

What precautions will Reading Partners take if/when reading centers are allowed to reopen?

Reading Partners will continue to take the precautions with reading centers and we will update the list below with any new guidelines issued by the CDC. For now, they are:

  • We will ensure that alcohol-based hand sanitizers and cleaning wipes are readily available in all national and regional offices and reading centers.
  • Ensure student/tutor pairs are spread out at least six feet apart within reading centers. 
  • We will advise all staff and volunteers to take the same precautions they would during cold and flu season:
    • Stay home and seek medical attention or guidance if you are not feeling well. If you have any symptoms of respiratory illness, do not come into work/report for service. Please.
    • Get a flu shot — it’s not too late.
    • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing — do not use your hands.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It’s the thorough scrubbing that makes the biggest difference.
    • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
    • Staff will be instructed to regularly clean frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

How can volunteers continue to help students even if they are unable to tutor?

Volunteer reading partners are incredibly giving of their time, and develop strong bonds with the students they tutor. We also know how much our volunteers hope their students develop a lifelong love of reading. Ultimately, we will need resources so that both in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and when we are able to move forward without current constraints, we can provide our students with literacy support solutions that meet their needs, no matter the circumstances.

During this time when we need to reach our students virtually, the best way to contribute to this effort is to make a donation that will help us continue rapidly creating and sharing resources. On our donate page you’ll be able to select your region, ensuring that your gift continues to serve the students in your area. 

It’s humbling how many volunteers, donors, and other Reading Partners supporters we’ve heard from who all want to help in any way possible. We thank you and assure you that Reading Partners is committed to providing literacy support to our students, even if we are reaching them in their homes instead of their schools. 

Will students still be able to hit their growth goals this year?

Our ability to hit organizational and student goals will very much depend on how long students and volunteers are out of school. At Reading Partners, we know that every single tutoring session is incredibly important for students in terms of the reading skills and confidence they are able to build. When support for students who struggle with reading is interrupted, it is certain to have an impact on their progress. That’s why Reading Partners is actively working on everything we can, in the absence of being able to support students through our traditional program model, to provide alternate resources to our students in a timely fashion. 

Will Reading Partners still host spring fundraising events?

Many spring fundraising events have been canceled due to public safety advisories to practice social distancing and avoid public gatherings. Local staff will provide information about the status of events and possible ticket refunds via email. While we are saddened to miss these opportunities to connect with our communities for a great cause, we are also endlessly thankful to everyone who makes our events successful each year through your sponsorships, donations, and attendance. During this incomparable period of societal disruption, we would be especially appreciative of any donation you can make to ensure our students get the additional support they need both when schools return to normal schedules and in the intervening weeks or months.

If fundraising events are not being held this spring, is there going to be another way I can contribute to ensure that Reading Partners is well-positioned to provide any and all support to its students? 

Just as Reading Partners has had to restructure our approach to serving students, our fundraising efforts have had to adjust and we’ve had to cancel all in-person fundraising events for the spring. Our current focus is on raising the funds needed for us to reach students in innovative ways that we couldn’t have anticipated at the start of the year. We are currently deploying free digital resources that will continue to provide literacy support to students throughout the country. 

The best way to make a contribution to these efforts is to make a gift on our website. Each donation will help ensure critical literacy resources reach students, whether in their classrooms or homes. 

Is Reading Partners still recruiting AmeriCorps members for the 2020-21 school year?

Yes, absolutely! While much about this school year may be out of the ordinary, Reading Partners is optimistic about the opportunity to serve our students as usual next school year. Reading Partners is actively recruiting, interviewing, and hiring to fill all available AmeriCorps slots in all Reading Partners regions for next school year. You can view all currently available positions on our Career Center, and reach out to americorps@readingpartners.org with any questions at any time.

About Reading Partners

How does Reading Partners select students for your program?

Our program team and site coordinators work closely with teachers and principals to identify high needs students. To be enrolled in Reading Partners, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Kindergarten through fourth-grade student,
  • One month to 2.5 years behind grade level in reading, and
  • Attend one of our partner schools.

Why do you only work in low-income schools?

We believe that reading unlocks opportunity and that every child deserves the opportunity to learn this fundamental skill. Research shows that children growing up in poverty face immense educational barriers and enter elementary school already further behind their more affluent peers.

How can I bring Reading Partners to my school?

You can start the conversation by reaching out to your school’s principal or by filling out our online form. To qualify for our direct service, a majority of the students enrolled at the school must qualify for free/reduced lunch.

Who administers the testing for these students?

Reading tests are administered by Reading Partners site coordinators.

How long are students generally in the program?

As soon as students are matched with a tutor they are enrolled in the program. Students are enrolled for two tutoring sessions each week, and on average, students complete 30 Reading Partners sessions within the school year. We evaluate and track student progress on an annual basis. Students are re-evaluated each year to ensure high needs students are prioritized for our program.

How can I get my child enrolled in Reading Partners?

Our students are referred by their teachers and principals. If your child is a student at one of our school sites, speak with their teacher about the possibility of getting them referred to our program.


About volunteering

Who volunteers as a Reading Partners tutor?

Our volunteer tutors have varied experience, ranging from high school students to stay-at-home parents to retirees. The only requirements are they must be at least 14 years old and able to commit to at least an hour a week to work with their student.

What experience is required?

No prior teaching experience is required. We only require that our volunteers be at least 14 years old and commit to at least an hour a week for a full semester.

I am not a native English speaker. Can I still volunteer?

Yes! However, we do require that you be fluent in English in order to best serve our students.

What if I can’t make it to a session one week?

Consistency is important with your student, but we understand that everyone has busy schedules. Let your site coordinator know ahead of time so that we can inform the student and try to schedule a make-up session.

How long does it take to get paired with a student?

Our goal is to match you with a student as quickly as possible. However, your start date for tutoring can take several days to several weeks, depending on a variety of scheduling factors. Tutors who are willing to commit to two sessions a week can often be placed more quickly.

Do I have any choice in the age or gender of student I work with?

We enroll students based on school priority and schedule, but definitely want to match you to a student that you feel comfortable tutoring. Let your site coordinator know at your orientation session if you have a preference for working with  male or female students or younger or older grades. Your site coordinator is always available to answer questions and work with you to make sure that you are paired well and feel confident as a volunteer.

What kind of training will I receive?

Orientation – All new volunteers will attend a tutor orientation to learn more about Reading Partners’ mission, model, and tutoring strategies. The orientation usually last one to one-and-a-half hours, and will prepare you to deliver the Reading Partners curriculum prior to your first session with your student.

Ongoing training – Each reading center is equipped with a site coordinator. Once you are paired with your student, your site coordinator will support and coach you throughout the school year. Never hesitate to ask questions!

Reading Partners also provides ongoing training events on a variety of relevant subjects and strategies. These are one-hour long trainings that engage reading partners from across the region to learn new strategies and share their tips and experiences. Volunteer reading partners can also access training videos and resources available on the online Volunteer Hub.

What is the minimum time requirement to be a volunteer reading partner?

We ask that volunteers commit to at least an hour per week.

I’ve already gotten a background check done in the past. Will I need to get another one?

Unfortunately, organizations are prohibited by law from sharing background results with one another.  We are happy to reimburse for the cost of your background check.

It’s already the middle of the semester – can I still volunteer?

Reading Partners enrolls students on a rolling basis. You can get started anytime during the school year. You do not need to wait until the beginning of the next semester.

If I have been arrested or convicted of a crime, am I allowed to volunteer?

All decisions around eligibility are made on a case-by-case basis depending on the specifics of your situation and the law. Not all convictions will deem you ineligible to volunteer. If there is something on your record that we want to discuss, we will reach out to you before making any final decisions. 

Will my background check result remain confidential?

If you complete Live Scan (CA) or Sterling Volunteers, we can promise confidentiality. Only one person at the Reading Partners headquarters will ever see your background check result details and those details are never shared. If there is something on your record that warranted more conversation, a regional staff member will be informed but they will never see your specific background check result. 

For those who do a district check, please contact the district regarding questions or concerns. 

Can I tutor if I’m undocumented?

We do not ask for volunteers to disclose this information. We need all volunteers to complete the required background check process. If volunteers are able to complete and pass the check, we will accept them. Please note, we cannot confirm how this information may be stored internally at the DOJ for those who complete Live Scan or Sterling Volunteer background checks. 


About our curriculum

How does it align with classroom learning? Does it align with Common Core?

Our curriculum is aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which have been adopted by most states in which Reading Partners operates. The curriculum also is aligned to other state standards. Aligning with CCSS and state learning standards ensures that our volunteer reading partners provide instruction that supports students’ work in their classrooms.

What kind of review process does your curriculum undergo?

Members of our program advisory who are reading and literacy experts use evidence-based practices to guide regular revisions to our curriculum and instructional materials. The committee is co-led by Dean Elson, chief knowledge officer, and Jennifer Joyce, director of national program.

How do you know it works?

Through continuous evaluation, we are able to make important decisions that will improve outcomes for students in our program.

  • We assess student reading skills and collect teacher feedback three times throughout the year to track each student’s progress and ensure high-quality programming.
  • We have partnered with, third-party research firms to design and carry out rigorous evaluations of our program, including a large independent, randomized control trial (RCT). The RCT found that our program was implemented with a high degree of fidelity, and had positive and statistically significant impacts on all three study measures: sight word reading, fluency, and reading comprehension. More information about this study and other evaluations can be found on our Program Impact page.
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