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March 11, 2013

Reading partner volunteers elevate literacy skills

Reading Partners is a national nonprofit that engages community volunteers — 14 years old and over — to tutor one-on-one with under-served elementary school students. Volunteers are trained and supported by site coordinators to use a highly structured and research-validated curriculum to help students who have fallen behind. They strive to empower the local community and give children individualized instruction and achieve measurable results in their literacy skills.

“Volunteering with Reading Partners is incredibly rewarding because I can see the difference it’s making in the student I tutor each week,” said Marvin Espinoza, a Reading Partners volunteer and a Cal State Sonoma senior. “I was the first student in my family to go to college, and I want to help others in my community succeed. Reading Partners allows me to do that.”

This school year, nearly 5,500 volunteer tutors provided more than 63,000 hours of tutoring lessons. “The volunteer tutors in our program are changing the lives of students by giving of their time each week. Every day we pair thousands of volunteer tutors with these struggling readers so that they develop the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and beyond,” said CEO Michael Lombardo. “With the support of these dedicated men and women, Reading Partners will continue to grow to reach more children in need of support.”

Josh Griffith implemented Reading Partners when he was principal at Hawes Elementary in Redwood City and brought the program over to John Gill Elementary, where he is now principal. “I am liking Reading Partners more and more,” he said. “I let the tutors know which standards we are working on and they try to tailor their curriculum to reinforce those standards. I’m in the process of compiling the newest data from our benchmark assessments to gauge how the children in the program are progressing.”

Reading Partners and programs like it are now more crucial to the academic success of students who need supplemental support and there are a lot of students who need it. According to The National Center for Education Statistics, in 2011, just 32 percent of the nation’s fourth-graders in public school were reading at proficiency or above. In California, just one in four fourth-graders read at grade level.

There are many schools in the Bay Area collaborating with Reading Partners. Selby Lane Elementary and San Mateo Park Elementary have partnered with them for over 10 years. Some of the volunteers at these schools have been there for five years or more. If you think your child’s school or any school in your community could benefit from such a program, you can go to for more information.

— Margaret Lavin, San Mateo County Times / Source

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