December 12, 2019
Read to a student, transform a life
By Lori Cohen, retired from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“My favorite place as a child was the library and I love helping to grow young readers.”
“The Big Dark is Coming” read the headline of the October 16, 2019, Seattle Times; however, it did not feel dark at all as I headed into Broadview-Thomson PK-8 School to tutor young readers that morning. This north Seattle public school is a bright, diverse, and dynamic place even on Seattle’s dreariest days.
The staff work hard to make the school welcoming. “We Believe in You!” calls out in big letters upon entry. Bulletin boards throughout the school are colorful and filled with students’ beautiful work. Maps show where students and their families come from, stories of family traditions accompany these maps, and creative art is abundant.
Broadview-Thomson has 624 students, with student performance statistics reflecting a below-average level of proficiency in language arts.
To improve reading scores, the school joined forces with Reading Partners, a national nonprofit organization with a 20-year track record of improving reading levels of students who participate in their program across the country. Reading Partners provides a detailed, proven curriculum that guides volunteer tutors through every step of one-on-one tutoring sessions with students.
We know that reading skills are fundamental to a child’s ability to progress in school and beyond. Reading Partners came to Seattle in 2014 and now partners with five under resourced elementary schools in the city.
Last year, I was proud to be one of the 454 volunteers who tutored 268 students in Seattle.
I was so impressed with the curriculum and its positive impact on students’ learning that I enrolled again this school year.
Working one-on-one with a student is gratifying, and more importantly, it is a critical part of the student’s path to success. The students in the program can be up to two years behind their grade-level in reading. It is easy to see students progress when given a little extra attention that cannot be afforded in the classroom.
At the end of the last school year, Reading Partners gave each student a bag of about five books, and I added a few to the bag for my student that I knew she would like. When I saw her this year, she said that she had read all the books we gave her! She was beaming when she read aloud to me–an essay well above the level she was reading when we first met. I was astounded at the progress made over just one year of Reading Partners.
The smile of a child who gains confidence as they read aloud is magic even on the darkest days of winter.