In 2010, United Way of Lake County developed the Reading Success program to help local students build literacy skills to ensure they can read at grade level by the end of the third grade. Reading Success targets first through third-grade students testing in the 20% – 40% in their class for reading and comprehension. Research shows that most students who are not proficient readers by the fourth grade will continue to remain behind throughout their educational careers. United Way brings trained volunteer reading tutors into Waukegan Public Schools weekly to tutor students, giving them individualized help to develop reading skills and improve performance. Over the last ten years, Reading Success has seen incredible results! First graders who received Reading Success tutors had improvement rates averaging 38% higher than their non-tutored peers at the same reading level!
To celebrate the success of our program over the last decade, we interviewed two advocates from Clearview Elementary School in Waukegan, the first school to participate in Reading Success.
Linda Rambo, Volunteer Tutor
What motivated you to become involved as a Reading Success tutor?
My son and I read together every day while he was growing up. He still loves to read, which has helped him in his education, his career and his personal relationships. I want to pass that love of reading on to other children.
I became involved with the Reading Success program when I met a member of United Way at the Northern Illinois Food Bank and was told about the program. I had just retired and knew this was a volunteering opportunity that I would love and it is.
What are some of the most memorable experiences you have had with students?
Each year is so unique and memorable. Every student brings their own personality and history. Spending time with and getting to know the students each week is amazing. Then, seeing them in the hall the next year and have them run up to you and give you a hug is priceless. I love that the other students in the class ask if they can come and read with you too. It makes your students feel special. One year I was asked to help chaperone the end of year class trip to the zoo. We had a great time and I was able to get to know the rest of the students in the class. I have had several students draw pictures or write notes to me. These are very special to me and I treasure each of them.
Why do you think other people should become involved and/or support this program?
I highly recommend being a tutor for Reading Success to anyone. I did recommend being a Reading Success tutor to a dear friend and she loves the program as well. You see your students each week for the entire school year and get to know them and see the progress they make. And, you work with dedicated, knowledgeable and kind teachers who truly care about their students. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you see your student realize that they have just read a book on their own and understood the whole thing. It makes them want to read more. That’s what it’s all about.
An hour a week is a small price to pay for such wonderful rewards.
Ms. Lewis, Third Grade Teacher at Clearview Elementary
What value does Reading Success bring to your classroom? How does it help you in your role as a teacher?
- My girls LOVE Linda and look forward to reading with her every week. They love having the extra attention, because it enables them to read and share ideas with another person. It is hard to meet with every reading group on a daily basis, so it’s nice to know that even though my girls can’t meet with me on Tuesdays, they still get to read with Linda. I try to pick books or passages that correlate with what we are learning in class, so the girls are getting a double whammy of instruction on those comprehension skills.
How has Reading Success helped your students?
Since starting the program, both girls have grown at least two reading levels and grew at least 10 points on their Winter MAP test. I have also seen a tremendous amount of growth in their confidence and participation in class and group conversations.
Do you have specific stories of how Reading Success has benefited your students?
One of my girls in the program was new to our school. She was very shy and afraid to participate in any class discussion. Since starting the program, she is no longer afraid to take chances during reading discussion. She loves reading aloud and volunteering to read to classmates. When given the choice of a reading station, she always chooses to independently read and eagerly shares what she has read. Her confidence has soared and I couldn’t be more grateful for Linda and all she has done.
To support more of United Way of Lake County’s education programs, like Reading Success, visit www.LIVEUNITEDlakecounty.org/give.