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June 14, 2024

The profound impact of Black tutors

“Early exposure to same-race teachers has been found to lead to lasting benefits, including improvements in test scores. Specifically, same-race teacher-student pairings result in approximately 4 percentile point improvements in test scores across subjects.” This statement comes from Mentor Canada in partnership with the B.Y.M.P. Black Youth Leadership and Mentor Program and Dylott, a leadership incubator for youth programs in their research, The Mentoring Effect of Black Youth (2020).

It’s clear that having a mentor has many benefits for students in all grades, from higher graduation rates and healthier lifestyle choices to higher confidence and improved behavior. But even more positive outcomes arise when Black students have a mentor who shares their race. 

a black tutor and a black student; black tutors

Benefits of having Black tutors mentor Black students

When Black students have a role model who looks like them, several benefits emerge. 

Black mentors and tutors can connect to their Black youth on a deeper level and make a personal connection to their lived experience. That connection and relatability helps strengthen their bond as the mentor encourages their student’s growth in various skills including leadership or literacy and offers support through big life transitions. 

Indeed, the connection between Black tutors and Black students creates a “sense of familiarity and support [that] fosters increased motivation in the classroom, leading to improved focus and academic performance. Furthermore, the personal connection goes beyond subject material, offering hope and inspiration to students.” 

At Reading Partners, we see this each and every day when our Black tutors inspire their students as leaders within their school and community. The bond that forms between Black tutors and students is truly magical, and often supplements the student’s unlimited learning potential as they feel empowered to boost their literacy skills.

By the end of the year, students use the skills they learn with Reading Partners to help other students in reading. It’s thrilling to see students become lifelong learners and leaders.  

But despite the overwhelmingly positive impacts of Black students having a same-race tutor, only around 15% of volunteer mentors in the US are Black. 

a black tutor smiling with her black student; black tutors

What you can do

Our next steps are clear: we need more Black tutors to commit to building a relationship with Black students. But there are still barriers to overcome.

From tutor shortages to a lack of information, Black youth may not always know how to find someone to mentor them. It’s up to us, the “[schools], communities, mentoring programs, and policymakers to work together to address the barriers Black youth face accessing mentoring opportunities and to help mentoring relationships reach their full potential.” 

If you are already a Black mentor, share your story with your network to encourage others to connect with Black youth. If you aren’t already involved in mentorship, look no further for opportunities to do so than Reading Partners. 

 We encourage Black adults to volunteer one or more hours per week with Reading Partners. For a deeper commitment, you can also choose to serve an 11-month term with AmeriCorps. Whichever opportunity you choose, know that you will be making a difference and building students’ literacy skills, promoting a positive self-worth, and encouraging them to be lifelong learners.  

This year, we had so many amazing Black tutors commit to a year of AmeriCorps service or volunteering. One of these tutors, Zipporah, and her Reading Partners student, Ari, were kind enough to chat with us for a tutor-student spotlight. Check it out below.

zipporah and ari; black tutors

Black tutor-student spotlight

Zipporah works as a pharmacist resident and volunteers as a tutor with Reading Partners South Carolina. This year, she tutored Ari, a kindergartner at St. Stephen Elementary.  

Throughout the year, Zipporah and Ari worked together to boost Ari’s literacy skills. By the end of the year, Ari was much more confident in her reading and could read fluently with little tutor support! 

We decided to ask them a few questions about their relationship and experience tutoring. 

Zipporah

Why is diversity important?

“As a minority, it is important to set an example for other students and minorities.”

How does your culture show up in your mentoring relationships?  

“I think that is relatability. I can enrich her life. It builds comfort for students.” 

What is your relationship with your student like?  

“It is a really good relationship of excitement and trust.” Zipporah notices that Ari can relate to her tutor when they talk about reading and getting braids in her hair. 

Ari

What was it like to have Ms. Zipporah as your tutor? 

“FUN!” 

What was your favorite part about your time tutoring with her? 

“Reading!” 

What is your favorite book? 

“Lola Gets a Cat,” which is a book Ari chose from the Take Reading With You bookshelf.

Black youth need mentors they can relate to. When kids are surrounded by and reading about people whose lives mirror their own, they’re more likely to be excited about learning. And when Black kids are excited about learning, they are primed for academic success and new opportunities for them well into the future.

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