For the last five years, UAlbany students from a variety of disciplines have been going into local elementary schools to pair up with children to improve their literacy skills. Sessions include reading, writing, word games and other interactions that promote communication skills. At the end of each semester, the children take part in a final presentation, showcasing their academic progress.
UAlbany America Reads Coordinator Shirlee Dufort, who visits each school on alternate weeks, says the key to the college tutors’ success is their ability to "make sessions fun. The tutors are working with kids who, after all, have already put in a full school day, and who have experienced the frustration that goes with having difficulty with reading. Our tutors engage the kids in conversation in order to personalize their learning, find out what they are interested in reading, and encourage them to write their own stories, poems and to illustrate their work. As rapport builds, it is astonishing to watch the young students’ excitement about learning grow." That rapport results not only in enhanced reading skills for these youngsters, but in overall improvement in their other schoolwork and their classroom attitudes.
The results are heartening. Because of the one-on-one experience, consistency and follow-through from one session to the next, children show more confidence and begin to see education as a positive experience. The number of tutors grows steadily every year and the program is already implementing plans to expand for the coming year.