>Reading Partners – One to One Literacy Support in California and Washington D.C.

>This week Books and Adventures crosses the Atlantic to feature Reading Partners.

This US non-profit literacy organisation, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, helps children to become lifelong readers by developing communities’ ability to provide individual literacy support.

I was particularly excited to discover the scheme as there are many parallels between Reading Partners and the UK literacy charity Volunteer Reading Help, on which you can find more here.

Reading Partners was founded in 1999. A retired school nurse, Mary Wright Shaw, was working in a neighbourhood of Palo Alto, California, when she discovered that many local children were unable to read the books provided in her clinic’s waiting room. Together with two friends, she committed to do something about this – and what was then the ‘YES Reading’ programme was born.

Now known as Reading Partners, the organisation has expanded throughout California and Washington D.C., serving over 1700 pupils and growing from a single trailer outside of an elementary school to 37 school sites.

Volunteers work on school campuses in 45-minute one-to-one sessions with children who need extra help to get their reading up to grade level. Many pupils, coming from homes where English is not the first language, may have stronger speaking skills, but still require support with reading and writing. Reading Partners, whose volunteers range all the way from high-schoolers through to retirees, records an 88% success rate in helping students accelerate their progress in reading.

Development Manager Allison W. Cohen joins Books and Adventures to tell us more.

‘Our model is scalable, high impact, and high quality,’ she explains. ‘In the past five years Reading Partners has grown by over 600% and maintained consistent results for students in the program.’

The Reading Partners scheme has its own curriculum, designed to California Department of Education standards in collaboration with experts from the Stanford School of Education. The organisation uses Houghton Mifflin’s RIGBY PM to assess student progress, alongside state standardized tests.

This commitment to providing measurable results makes Reading Partners an attractive option for charitable donors, as Allison makes clear: ‘Reading Partners gives donors measurable, tangible results that they can point to. It is easy to see how your money is being used and the value of that donation.’

Reading Partners has responded to the challenges of the economic climate by partnering with the federal AmeriCorps programme. As the charity becomes leaner and more efficient, plans for the future are optimistic: ‘We hope to serve at least 100 schools in the next three years and tackle the childhood literacy crisis on a national scale.’

You can find out more about Reading Partners, and read their report ’10 Stories for 10 Years’, here.

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