By Sylvia Rainey, 2020-2021 Literacy First Tutor
The most gratifying statement I heard all year was from one of my second-grade students. “I finally got the hang of reading!” he announced proudly. This is a student who had started the school year struggling to read at 22 words-per-minute, and now he is able to read. I couldn’t ask for a better expression of his achievement. The blessing for me is that I helped him as a tutor in the Literacy First program.
This is my first year with Literacy First, an AmeriCorps programs based in Austin, TX. I have learned so much about teaching reading to young students. My six current students are second and third graders with varying degrees of skills and struggles with reading. A big factor in tutoring these students daily is building a meaningful relationship with each one of them. This is the fun part of the job, because as a grandparent who has three active grandchildren, I know how to bond with kids. In fact, I believe some of these kiddos relate well to a grandparent figure in their lives – grandma and granddad figures who can listen with empathy, understand child growth stages and emotions, and just give some love. So, there is a place for retirees and Senior volunteers in the Literacy First program.
Seniors can bring a consistent reading skill to literacy tutoring, because we’re from the “old school” where learning to read phonetically was drilled into our heads. Literacy First uses a range of tools and teaching approaches, but fundamentally, phonetics is the baseline of tutoring our students. Often, young students aren’t getting that type of consistent reading experience in classrooms today. There are different approaches, and some are not generating strong reading skills.
As a retiree, we may not have all the current technology skills and might struggle to keep up with social media, but here’s a great opportunity to volunteer, receive a monthly stipend for your time, and make a real difference in some child’s life. Join Literacy First and help teach kids to read.