Strengthening Communities Through Americorp
My Experience with Reading PartnersRobert | Family Medicine Jun 8, 2022
About the Author:
Maddie Peloff graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 2020 with a biology degree and moved to Colorado for her gap years. She is currently finishing a year of service with Americorps through the non-profit Reading Partners and will start an MPH program at CU Anschutz in the fall. She is excited to expand her passion for educational equity into the public health sphere and hopes to use her masters degree to continue serving under resourced communities.
Fall of 2021, I found myself, a recent college graduate, moving across the country to Denver during a pandemic surge. At the time, the city was in peak lockdown, I was working 12-hour shifts at a local hospital and spending nearly all of my free time applying to graduate programs. I spent a lot of time during my undergraduate career volunteering, and the isolation I felt that year drove me to seek out volunteer work in my new city.
After doing some research, I stumbled on a website for Reading Partners, a program that pairs elementary school students with volunteer reading tutors and decided to sign up for a weekly tutoring session. Flash forward to the present, I am halfway through an Americorps service year with Reading Partners, tutoring several students every day, and feel like I finally found the sense of community I was searching for when I moved to Denver.
Reading Partners is a non-profit organization that partners with elementary schools in under-resourced areas, recruiting community volunteers to tutor students who are struggling with reading. As a program coordinator, I facilitate daily tutoring sessions in one partner elementary school, build relationships with school staff, monitor my students’ progress, and do everything in my power to create a reading center with an environment that feels welcoming to everyone.
Students enrolled in Reading Partners attend two 45-minute tutoring sessions each week with trained community volunteers. Each session includes a ten-minute tutor read aloud, follows a Reading Partners specific curriculum which students are placed into based on their reading level, and incorporates games and activities to target student growth areas and maximize student success.
During the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected people in poverty and communities of color. The pandemic has exacerbated the achievement gap in schools, and with a shift towards virtual learning out of schools and into the home, students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) households suffer more than their higher SES peers. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only about one third of fourth graders in the United States can read proficiently, and students who live in poverty are more likely than their peers to have lower literacy skills.
When students don’t have important literacy skills in elementary school, they continue to fall behind their peers as they progress through their primary education, and their access to higher education becomes more limited. Reading Partners uses individualized instruction and attention to strategically attack these gaps in education and provide students with life-long literacy skills.
As an organization, Reading Partners’ commitment to equity work continues to educate Americorps members like me, as well as its volunteers. Reading Partners provides trainings and resources on equity and inclusion that allow us to challenge our perspectives and expand our thinking on different topics.
Through Reading Partners, I have learned to empower students in the classroom, which is an invaluable skill for anyone working or volunteering in education. Working one-on-one with students has given me the opportunity to learn their interests, their motivations, their strengths, and do everything I can to create a learning environment that reflects their individual abilities. Every success I get to experience with these students, from the smaller accomplishments to the major breakthroughs, makes the challenges worth it. Every day, the hard work I see from these students continues to inspire me, and I’m so proud of the progress each of them has made this year.
If you’re interested in volunteering with Reading Partners, visit our website linked here.