Tutoring Program at St. James
This piece is reprinted by permission of Rita Klock, author of the original.
An after-school tutoring program that focuses on reading skills has been making a difference in the lives of third-grade students from Rugg Elementary School in Alexandria for more than 12 years.
What originated as a way for St. James to help at-risk students improve their reading skills in preparation for the all-important LEAP test (which must be passed at “basic level”) this program, through its wonderful, caring volunteers, has also built confidence and a sense of self-worth in each child who has participated. The invaluable one-on-one reading provides tools for pronunciation, vocabulary building, and comprehension, as well as the opportunity to listen and to imitate expressive reading skills. Board games centered around reading comprehension, vocabulary building, sequencing of events and drawing inferences allow the children time to interact with each other in a venue quite different from the video games many play.
Our “reward” outings also provide experiences most would not otherwise have. Goals are set each nine weeks as to how many books the children will read and test on, the overall percentage they must earn on the tests, and the number of months in which they think they can raise their individual reading level. At the end of the nine weeks, those who achieve their goals enjoy an outing such as Gone Wild Safari and bowling, along with supper at various restaurants. All this is made possible through the generosity of our church family– both in regards to money for snacks and the outings, and in the time given by volunteers to build a better future for these children.
Now in our thirteenth year, we often run into young teens and college students who ask if we remember them from their time at St. James! We at St. James consider ourselves blessed by the interaction with these children, past and present, because each one brings not only their own unique personality, but also a perspective on life that we often don’t have. I can never express enough how wonderful our volunteers are and how much of a difference each one makes! As I have stated many times over, our volunteers are the heart of our program– proclaiming God’s love simply by being there to listen.
The Rev. Melanie Mullen
Director of Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care