My students need a large variety of books to develop reading skills and a love of learning with elementary students in our high school cross age tutoring program.
The inability to read hampers all success. Through tutoring elementary students, low achieving high school students improve their reading skills, develop self esteem, and build a love for reading to pass on to their future children.
I am a high school English teacher at a rural public high school in a mining and farming community.
Over one third of our students are on free or reduced lunch. Because of changes in the economy, the job market is bleak and many of these students come from homes where education was not a priority because of the previous security of mining jobs. The students in my Readers Choice class are usually "at risk" students including foster kids, pregnant teenagers, and students who read at a low level or are in danger of not graduating. Tutoring at the early elementary level helps to improve their reading skills as they again read at the level at which most of them stopped reading because it was difficult. They feel that they are doing a service to the elementary kids, who are actually helping to build the high school kids. This is a win/win situation as they work together to accomplish the difficult task of learning to read, while developing friendships and a love of learning.
When I began this program about fifteen years ago, I had written and received a Service Learning Grant. My class size was limited to 15-20 students and I had funds to purchase elementary level books. This year I have had classes of 30 plus students and we are still using the same books, many of which have been lost or worn out. Yesterday three elementary students brought books to me and asked if I could glue the pages in so they could finish reading. Last week I was able to find a bargain set of Magic Tree House books that I bought with my own money. The elementary students have been voraciously reading. With new books, the enthusiasm level goes up and students get more excited about reading, thus developing reading skills and a love of learning. Reading is the key to success in school and in life. When students can read, they are able to succeed.
Teaching low achieving high school students is a challenge.
Most are from homes where reading was not important, so they quit reading. By reading with elementary students, the spark is rekindled and high school students learn to read. They recognize the importance of consistent practice and develop "parenting skills" to motivate and encourage reading. Most importantly, as I attend local wedding receptions, many of my former students promise me that they will read with their own children.
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