Janet Whitemore: Building literacy is a community effort
Carson City has two programs offering free reading tutoring to children and adults. The adult program has been in Carson City since 1986 focusing mainly on teaching non-English speakers who want to learn to speak English, but also teaching English speaking adults who want to improve their reading. In 2007, a new program called Literacy Volunteers for Children was founded to help kindergarten through high school children improve their reading skills. Other than a $25 registration (which can be waived) the services are totally free. Most students stay with the program for approximately three years. If you were to hire a tutor, the fee is usually a minimum of $25 per hour.
All students are given an initial screening to make sure the program is suited for them. They’re then matched with a tutor and start meeting twice a week for one-hour sessions. The tutoring continues through the summer so progress can continue year-round. Students start showing progress after just a few sessions.
The highly successful Barton Reading and Spelling System is used for both children and adults. It’s an Orton-Gillingham based program. Tutors go through a training program and watch DVDs showing Susan Barton teach all the lessons. The program is totally scripted so tutors don’t need to have any prior teaching experience. The scripted lessons tell the tutor everything they need to be successful.
Reading is an essential skill everyone needs to become successful in life. Many students learn differently and don’t progress as quickly as others in the school setting. One-on-one tutoring is the best way to meet an individual’s unique way of learning. Tutoring sessions are designed specifically to match the child’s learning pace.
The Literacy Volunteers concentrate totally on providing tutoring to their students. They’re not asked to do anything but tutor. Therefore, raising funds to keep the program going is a constant struggle. We don’t do fundraising activities. We rely on community support such as the Nevada Appeal who generously gave us $1,250 from its Gold for Literacy event. Our main expense is rent which is currently $350 a month.
Both Literacy programs (adult and child) are nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organizations. What we really need is a “home” that’s inexpensive. We sometimes tutor five people at a time so we need space to accommodate them, plus our library and materials room and a waiting room for parents. Approximately 1,500 to 2,000 square feet is needed. We also need parking for those five tutors and five students. Tutoring mainly takes place after school during the school year but all during the day during summer. Screening is often done on weekends along with some tutoring.
This program is critical to those people who need reading help. It’s a proven, successful affordable opportunity to help develop a community of readers.
Janet Whitemore, a former teacher, is the program director for both the adult and children’s programs. She has a Masters in Education and a Reading Specialist credential. She has volunteered with Carson City Literacy Volunteers since 2002 and took over as director in 2008. She founded the Literacy Volunteers for Children in 2009.