Program Helping Students Read Hopes To Continue Tulsa Success

Monday, August 24th 2015, 8:12 pm
By: Emory Bryan

A national group that places volunteers in schools to teach reading says Tulsa is one of their greatest success stories. Because of that, Reading Partners hopes to expand in Tulsa so more children can get help.

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Mark Twain Elementary is one of 18 schools where Reading Partners volunteers come in each week to read with children. In Tulsa, 1,000 students are paired with a volunteer, but many more need that help.

In elementary classrooms, teachers read to students as much as they can but the numbers simply don't allow much one-on-one time, according to Eugene Field Principal, Sheila Riley.

“Some of our classes have 25-28 students in them, so it would be impossible for teachers to pull out a student one-on-one because they have 25 other students in the room,” she said.

But that equation changed when Reading Partners came to Eugene Field Elementary two years ago.

Reading Partners CEO, Michael Lombardo, said the program matches a proven curriculum with local volunteers who read to a student at least one hour a week.

"So the volunteer is not only inspiring children to love reading, they're making significant progress on teaching them reading skills; and I think it's that pairing that makes Reading Partners work,” he said.

Reading Partners works in 13 cities but claims Tulsa as the best example of how well it can work.

Their research shows children pick up reading skills three times faster when they're in the program.

Lombardo said, "Students come into Reading Partners with a variety of needs - some just need a little boost, some need work on foundational skills. We can work with students over multiple years, and our research shows that, over time, we can be very successful in advancing kids to grade level."

At Eugene Field, Reading Partners helped students improve - but with 85 percent of the children coming into school behind on reading, they still need more help.

Riley said, "I would love to have Reading Partners from kindergarten through fifth grade, serving all of our students. We need more volunteers."

Reading Partners will have 1,200 volunteers this year, but they still need more.

The training is done online and the commitment is only for an hour a week for a semester.

You can learn more about volunteering with Reading Partners online.