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June 16, 2015

Corporate volunteers changing the trajectory of students’ lives

In her spare time Roslyn Coates is an avid hiker and traveler. She is also an employee at Match.com, an online dating service. Aside from climbing new horizons and assisting others in finding their true love, Roslyn enjoys helping students conquer their own obstacles and sharing her love for literacy as a Reading Partners volunteer at a local elementary school. Roslyn is allowed paid volunteer hours as a part of Match.com’s commitment to serving the community, which she used this past school year to supplement the reading skills of a student reading 6 months to 2.5 years below grade level.

The 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress found that 84% of low-income fourth graders in Dallas failed to demonstrate proficiency in grade-level reading. Reading Partners is a national education nonprofit dedicated to stemming this trend by partnering with Title I elementary schools to identify struggling students. These students are matched with community volunteers who provide weekly one-on-one instruction that is tailor-made to the individual needs of each student. Roslyn is one of thousands across the country joining the effort to instill a lifelong love of reading in our youth and move the needle on the national fourth grade literacy proficiency rate. This past school year in Dallas, Reading Partners volunteers like Roslyn served over 800 students.

Reading Partners students gain confidence in their ability because the program builds a meaningful relationship between them and someone who provides encouragement and has a vested interest in their individual progress. In turn, volunteers equip them with the fundamental skills necessary to succeed in school and in life: During the 2013-14 school year, 85% of Reading Partners target students increased their monthly rates of literacy learning. Although Roslyn has never worked with children in an educational setting before and admits that she was nervous at first, Reading Partners’ staff of dedicated, friendly AmeriCorps members made her “feel at ease right away.” In addition, Roslyn stated that the “lesson plans were well laid-out and complete with goals and accomplishments, so understanding what to do was easy.” Reading Partners uses a structured, research-based curriculum, designed specifically for use by volunteers to make effective use of each tutoring session.

Roslyn also mentioned that keeping a seven-year-old on task for an entire 45 minute-session was probably the most difficult aspect of tutoring. However, throughout the semester her student became more and more enthusiastic about reading. She even noted that upon receiving a book as a gift during their weekly tutoring session, her student immediately read it aloud; not only was her student excited about reading, but she was also making strides in her literacy skills. Roslyn’s student displayed improvement in fluency, built her vocabulary, and even learned to read with expression, which requires a certain level of reading comprehension. Roslyn’s student is one of over 2100 students that Reading Partners Dallas has served since its inception in 2012.

Roslyn’s story shows that no experience is necessary to tutor with Reading Partners and make a positive difference in a child’s life, and, as Roslyn adamantly related, “anyone who can help should help because the need is always there.” Through the help of dedicated volunteers like Roslyn and community leaders like Match.com that allow employees the flexibility to impact their community, we can work together to solve the literacy crisis. To learn more about Reading Partners Dallas or join the movement for the 2015-16 school year, please visit readingpartners.org/location/dallas/. Alternatively, you can email volunteerdal@readingpartners.org or call 214.821.4500 to speak with a member of the Reading Partners community engagement team to find out more.

Read the article on the Dallas Morning News site.

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