Shelly Schermer, a retired attorney and high school teacher who has volunteered for Reading Partners for more than five years, has a challenge for others: “I always say, if you can read to a kid, you can volunteer for Reading Partners.”
The mission of Reading Partners is to mobilize and train volunteers to help struggling students become confident readers and life-long learners. About 80 percent of low-income fourth graders across the nation are not reading at grade level, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
“I always say, if you can read to a kid, you can volunteer for Reading Partners.” — Shelly Schermer, volunteer
The Reading Partners program became part of the Sacramento educational landscape in 2009 when community volunteers were placed in low-income schools to help children master basic reading skills. The program focuses on students who are at least one month behind in reading, assisting the students in mastering the reading fundamentals they need to reach grade level.
Each Reading Partners volunteer is paired with one student, donating one hour of time each week to provide individualized and targeted instruction with step-by-step lesson plans and the support of an on-site supervisor.
“The tutors are the core to what we do,” says Cynthia Ayala, the site coordinator at Bret Harte. “At this point, just nine weeks into the program, we have had great success. The students have already increased their reading skills by 17 percent. This could not happen if not for the dedication from our tutors and the one-on-one relationship with their students.”
Schermer, who tutors a first-grader and a third-grader, says her favorite things about being a volunteer are the feelings of hope and happiness she draws from being around the children, and the rewarding process of establishing a relationship and building trust with students who may, at first, have a difficult time.
The Reading Partners program is at 10 schools in the Sacramento area. Volunteers are needed at all of the schools, particularly Ethel Phillips Elementary and the newer schools in the Del Paso Heights area.
By Ariel Calvert, Viewpoint staff