Building a more literate futureReading corps volunteers help kids catch up
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
On Tuesday, April 27, Newport Elementary School third-grader Davreen Ramirez, read a worksheet about animal habitats four times as Minnesota Reading Corps volunteer Patricia Kramer, counted how many words he read within a minute. Ramirez put his results on a graph and colored in the bars so he could see his progress.
On his final try, Ramirez read the entire passage of 133 words with two errors.
“That’s amazing,” Kramer told him before he returned to his class.
Kramer, who recently got a teaching degree, sees about 18 students a day in grades kindergarten to third-grade as a volunteer with the program.
She was trained in the methods used by the Minnesota Reading Corps to help kids who are behind grade level in reading, but do not qualify for other programs or special education.
Reading corps volunteers don’t need a teaching degree, said Anita Simonton, reading specialist who oversees Kramer’s work at the school.
Kramer said she will list the experience on her resume when she applies for a teaching position.
There are eight reading corps volunteers in School District 833 and next year, it will be expanded by two more, said Elizabeth Catterall, district reading specialist who coordinates corps volunteers, she said.
Teachers are very supportive of the program, Simonton said.
Most volunteers get some compensation, Catterall said, if they complete 1,500 hours at their schools.
Benefits include a living allowance, money for college and student loan deferment.
Kramer said she’s found that every child learns at a different rate.
“It’s so great when they’re starting to get it and catch on,” she said.
If children are not reading at grade level by the time they finish third grade, it’s very difficult for them to catch up, Catterall said.
Some kids just need extra help and teachers don’t have time to help them individually, she said.
Both specialists, and Kramer, agree, that in addition to improving literacy skills, students who get help from corps volunteers develop more confidence.
“They see their progress and feel good,” Simonton said.
Ramirez will continue to see Kramer for help until he reaches grade level and returns full-time to his class. He will be monitored, however, and if needed, he will continue to get help.
For information on how to become a reading volunteer, go to minnesotareadingcorps.org.