Important COVID-19 information: Our Programs | FAQs | Resources for families

Back to News

December 9, 2013

One for the Books: Reading Partners Baltimore

According to statistics from Reading Partners, a national education nonprofit organization, four out of five fourth-graders in Baltimore from low-income families cannot read at grade level, and children who do not read proficiently by that time are less likely to graduate on time.

Joe Ventura, senior communications manager for Reading Partners, notes there is “a social and emotional component to reading, as well.” Children often feel embarrassed when they can’t read at the same level as their peers, and if their reading difficulties require they be held back from advancing with their grade, “it can be really detrimental to their self-esteem,” he says.

Reading Partners, which expanded to Baltimore last year, is working to prevent that.

Based in Oakland, Calif., Reading Partners collaborates with individual Title I elementary schools across the country. The schools establish a dedicated space for a reading center, supervised by a full-time staff member who coordinates adult volunteer tutors and materials and works with the school’s teachers. Students meet with a tutor two times a week for 45 minutes per session. Reading Partners asks its volunteers to commit one hour per week (with the extra 15 minutes used for lesson preparation and recording their qualitative review of that day’s session). Students, therefore, meet with two different tutors each week. Reading Partners strives to ensure students work with the same two tutors consistently, week after week.

In January of last year, Reading Partners opened its first Baltimore reading center at Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill. This year, Reading Partners Baltimore—funded by the city school system, individuals, and charitable foundations—is also operating at Callaway Elementary School, Holabird Elementary School, Furman L. Templeton Preparatory Academy, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School. Edgecombe Circle Elementary School and Westport Academy Elementary School participated in the program last year but are not involved this year.

Students who took part in Reading Partners Baltimore last year gained an average of 1.8 months of reading skills each month, allowing them to make up the gap with their peers over time. “I have seen our students transform from being shy children who struggle with reading to being self-confident readers who truly love reading,” says Lisa Lazarus, executive director of Reading Partners’ mid-Atlantic region, which encompasses Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Reading Partners volunteer tutors start with training, including shadowing a more seasoned tutor. They have access to 150 lessons that outline key elements of the reading process and how to teach them, as well as plenty of books to read with the students in their charge.

Hosea Chew, who works as director of administration for the Baltimore City Council, volunteers at Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill, in the neighborhood he lived in for a while as a child. “They really put a lot of time into seeing what works best for a child,” says Chew, of Reading Partners. “They make sure they have the resources in terms of materials.”

“It is shocking to see how some kids want to read, but nobody has spent the time to help them learn,” he adds. “Someone focusing just on them, that really helps.”

Chew says he knew he was making progress as a tutor when the second-grade student he worked withlast year improved her reading skills by more than a grade level. And when that student spotted him in the hallway on the day of one of their sessions and “lit up like a Christmas tree,”  he says, that was the cherry on top of the sundae. “It’s gratifying, to say the least,” says Chew.

Lazarus meanwhile tells the story of Keijah, a fifth-grader at Friendship Academy at Cherry Hill who started last school year reading at a beginning-of-third-grade level. With support from her Reading Partner, Keijah gained more than two years of reading skills in eight months.

“When Keijah first entered Reading Partners, she found reading to be a difficult and frustrating task,” says Lazarus. “Over the course of the school year, her confidence both in Reading Partners and in the classroom grew tremendously. At the end-of-year celebration, Keijah stood up in front of more than 50 adults, classmates, and teachers to read an excerpt from her favorite story.”

Lazarus says the goal of Reading Partners Baltimore, which currently has about 300 tutors, is to one day have thousands of them. “When the phrase ‘I am a Reading Partner’ becomes ubiquitous,” she says, “we will be able to ensure that all students have access to the resources they need to both learn to read and read to learn.” BC

©Baltimore’s Child Inc. 2013

Source / Baltmore’s Child > Educational Exchange / Sandy Alexander

  • Logo for Accelerate
  • Logo for Five Below
  • Logo for Hellman Foundation
  • Logo for Bezos Family Foundation
  • Logo for George Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Logo for Panda Cares
  • Logo for The Duke Endowment
  • Logo for Deerbrook Charitable Trust

Thanks to our partners

Site by Vermilion Credits Privacy Policy ©2024 Reading Partners