Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Reaping the rewards of MN Reading Corps
March 7, 2011

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

DELANO, MN – In the three years that Delano Elementary School has had literacy tutors working one-on-one with students through the Minnesota Reading Corps, the results have been far-reaching.

“Early intervention is key,” said Lisa Downer, who is the internal literacy coach for the Minnesota Reading Corps program in Delano. “We see kids who were in the program as kindergarteners who are now in second grade, and they no longer need help at all.”

Minnesota Reading Corps tutors are also reaping benefits.

“I’ve had past tutors tell me that they never thought they’d enjoy teaching kids so much,” Downer said.

Delano Elementary School is currently accepting applicants for two new literacy tutors for the 2011-12 school year. Both positions are full time, but there is the option of dividing them into part-time positions, if needed.

Members sign a one-year contract for 1,720 hours of work, which includes tutoring during the school day plus service activities in the community.

“It’s for somebody who has a lot of energy,” Downer said. “It’s really not for everybody.”

Minnesota Reading Corps is one of the largest AmeriCorps state programs in the country. It provides an opportunity for service-oriented individuals to make an impact in the next generation.

“It will be an incredible experience,” Downer said. “I can guarantee that.”

In exchange for services, full-time tutors receive a biweekly living allowance of about $490 (about $245 for part-time tutors). Those who successfully complete their year of service also receive an education award of $5,550 (full time) or $2,775 (part time).

The commitment can also be a great resumé builder for recent college graduates hoping to enter the education field, Downer added.

Well-respected literacy experts train tutors to work with students on phonics, phonemic awareness, and fluency skills.

One of this year’s tutors, Shelly Anderson, said she signed up for the program because she enjoys volunteering at her children’s school.

“It’s been good for my family,” Anderson said, explaining that the service activities have encouraged them to become more involved.

Having such a full schedule can be a challenge at times, though, and Anderson said it’s sometimes a struggle to fit in the required number of hours.

“I had done volunteer work before, but this is like diving in head-first,” she said.

Tutors normally work with about 17 students a day, in one-on-one sessions that last for 20 minutes.

They also monitor the progress of students who had been in the program in the past.

“Yesterday, I saw 28 students,” Anderson said.

Students are in the program for a minimum of three weeks.

“We have a target goal for each grade level,” Anderson said. Kindergarteners focus on identifying letter names and sounds, while older students concentrate on reading a certain number of words correctly in one minute.

“It’s very scientifically-based,” Anderson said, explaining that students read from scripts provided by the Minnesota Reading Corps program.

Graphs are used to mark progress of each student.

“It’s good for the kids to see their growth on the graph,” Anderson said. “The kids know what’s expected of them.”

For anyone who is interested in becoming a literacy tutor at Delano Elementary School for the 2011-12 school year, Downer recommends learning the program details from the Minnesota Reading Corps website, www.minnesotareadingcorps.org.

“From there, they can apply right online,” she said.

Candidates should be physically able to walk between classrooms throughout the day, and also be willing to commit a year of time to the service project.

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