Tutors try to raise kids' skills at reading
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 4, 2007
Feb. 4, 2007 12:00 AM
Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the fourth grade will end
up in jail or on welfare. You can help break the cycle of illiteracy and change
the outlook for Arizona students by joining All Star Kids Tutoring
(ASKT) to tutor second- and third-graders.
This 10-year-old program matches volunteers with students identified by their
teachers as being one to two years behind in their reading skills.
Mentors meet one-on-one with the students each week while other student/tutor
pairs are nearby to practice critical reading skills with instruction tailored
to the students' specific needs. At 15 tutoring sites throughout the Valley,
volunteers are providing more than 7,000 hours of free literacy tutoring.
"Nothing is more important than having a child know that you are there solely
for them," said Mimi Mertel, founder and president of the board of ASKT, and
herself a tutor. "It builds self-confidence that is evident throughout the
Additionally, the program donates new and gently used books (more than 3,700
last year) to the students and their families through a program called Bright
Books, which will be funded next year by First Book and Cheerios.
Family Literacy Nights are also scheduled to help parents pick out books to
start a library at home and meet the tutors who are working with their children.
The program initially struggled to show results on the students' state tests
until the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, an early funder, stepped in to
"Through 'best practices' study and adoptions, along with curriculum revision,
recent assessments showed that students made significant gains in reading
compared to similar students who had not participated in the program," Piper
President Judy Mohraz said.
ASKT also found that intensive training and support for volunteers was
imperative for the program's success. Volunteers receive introductory training
along with advanced courses throughout the year and monthly staff support on
New aspects will be added to the program in 2007 including parent trainings
funded by the Thunderbirds and the beginning of "affiliate sites" where
organizations like the Sun City del Sol Rotary Club adopt the ASKT model and
bring it to additional schools.
To volunteer, call (480) 624-9950 or visit www.askt .org.
Carol Peck is president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Arizona. Her columns
appear every other Sunday. Send your questions and ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.