A few years ago I facilitated a teacher workshop and to kick things off we posed a question. We asked teachers how they came to be a reader. We asked them to identify the key that opened the door for them. Participants immediately woke up that lazy morning and became engaged in conversation as they began sharing their stories. The stories were as varied as the participants.

When I first heard about Reading Partners I recognized how they are serving as this key experience for so many children and their lives will be forever changed because of it.

And here to tell us more is the Executive Director, Amanda MacLennan.

How about starting off with a story about your earliest experience learning to read or a favorite childhood book?

I was a struggling young reader and it was a very stressful time.  My mother remains a voracious reader and she read to me and my sister.  Clifford the Big Red Dog was among my favorites.  But mostly I read because I had to and it wasn’t until I read The Outsiders that reading clicked for me.  I got lost in the pages and hours passed that felt like minutes.  Had I not had the support during my times of struggling to read I would not know the wonderful joy of reading.

Reading PartnersTell us what inspired the mission of Reading Partners and for how many years?

Three community leaders in the Bay Area launched a one-on-one tutoring program in 1999 to help students with the poorest reading skills.  They recruited volunteers and quickly recognized the power of one-on-one attention for struggling readers and the power of the community to support children and schools.

Is there any special research that you base your mission upon?

Yes, the following reports by The Annie E. Casey Foundation “underscore the urgency of ensuring that children develop proficient reading skills by the end of third grade, especially those living in poverty or in impoverished communities.”

http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid=%7B58440238-1626-476F-AFDA-155D2185FB3A%7D

http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid=%7B8E2B6F93-75C6-4AA6-8C6E-CE88945980A9%7D

What are some of the ‘infinite possibilities’ that you believe can come from matching a tutor with a child?

Seeing a child bound to the stage to read in front of their peers, teachers, families, and friends tells me everything I need to know about the power of the tutor/student relationship.

The Reading Partners’ curriculum is research based and the measurable outcomes consistently demonstrate the positive impact on the students’ reading achievement.  But it is the self-confidence that also sets up the foundation for success for these students.

At the beginning of the school year a struggling young reader would not be very excited to read on a stage in front of an audience. This student standing on the stage, often with their tutor at their side, has gone beyond the phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension learning that they receive in their twice weekly meetings with their tutor.  This student has moved into a confident young person who knows that they are supported by a caring tutor.  The door is now open for infinite possibilities for this student.

Give us 3 Fast Facts about your organization:

Reading Partners-volunteer1.  Over 7,700 community volunteers will serve 7,000 students in Reading Partners nationwide this year.

2.  In 2012-13, nearly 9 in 10 Reading Partners students (88%) accelerated their rate of learning in reading.

3.  We are proud to be part of AmeriCorps with 145 members doing service for their country with Reading Partners nationwide.

What’s in store for Reading Partners in 2014?

In Los Angeles, we will serve 600 students by the end of the 2013-14 school year by engaging over 1000 community volunteers.  We have brought our curriculum into alignment with the Common Core State Standards and look forward to using it with more students in the future.

What should volunteers expect in working for Reading Partners – does it take any special training? How much time will volunteers need to commit?

Volunteers can tutor a student in Reading Partners in as little as one hour per week.  There is no special training or background required – we provide the lessons and materials needed as well as ongoing training by our staff.  Our volunteers range from high school students to retirees – anyone can do it!

For those that are instantly inspired to support Reading Partners after reading this, tell us how they can donate or get involved:

http://www.readingpartners.org/volunteer

http://www.readingpartners.org/donate

As a reading specialist it just makes me so happy to know about the tremendously important work being accomplished by these volunteers. Just as Reading Partners is providing a key for becoming a reader, BTBS can also be a key for some readers as well, bringing them to the reading table excited to mix technology with the reading experience.

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