Experience Corps Comes to Chicago – Help School Kids Learn to Read

kids reading

From our Master Blogger Jean

Here’s a question for you: What percentage of third grade children in the Chicago Public Schools are reading at grade level…and no fair Googling.  82%?  61%?  28%? 19%?  (You’ll discover the answer as you read along). A service called Experience Corps, instituted by AARP (American Association of Retired People), began a program about ten years ago to tutor and mentor children K through 3rd grade, using volunteers to help improve reading ability nationwide.  The program exists in 19 states and, this year, the program is being introduced into the Chicago Public Schools beginning this October, making Illinois the 20th state.  The program is based upon well-researched, well-documented strategies to improve reading ability.  If you guessed that 19% of Chicago Public School third graders read at grade level, then you chose correctly.  To read “at grade level” translates to a letter grade of C-/D+.  Obviously, we need to help improve these numbers, preparing our children to transition from “Learning to Read” to “Reading to Learn.”
The AARP Experience Corp will designate 15 schools within three networks of the Chicago Public School districts for its focus.  An intensive three day training session will be held at the end of September to train tutors in the reading program. There is on-going instruction and evaluation for both child and tutor to aid in positive outcomes.  The tutor works with the same children, numbering one to four, in the classroom setting throughout the school year.  Tutors, ages 50 and above, must be high school graduates or have a GED; commit to two days a week, 4 to 5 hours; complete a screening process; and take the required training.  The impact of the tutor’s presence in the classroom is significant.  In addition to documented improvement in children’s reading ability, this program is said to improve behavior as well as “shrink” the class size by 40%, allowing teachers to focus on other groups of children within the classroom.

If you are interested in finding out more about this program, please contact Jacob Cashman at AARP Experience Corps, (312) 660-8655; or visit the website www.ecchicago@aarp.org.


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