Help for volunteers online

America Reads Challenge offers resource kit

May 09, 1999|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Help is just a mouse click away for community volunteers who want to join a nationwide effort to teach all children in America to read by the age of 9.

As part of its America Reads Challenge initiative, the U.S. Department of Education has created an Internet Web site for the public that is filled with information on how to launch an after-school, weekend or summer reading program for children.

"This resource kit is for communities that want to take the challenge of putting together a community effort for reading," said Carol Rasco, senior adviser to U.S. Education Secretary Richard W. Riley and director of the America Reads Challenge.

Studies have shown that approximately 40 percent of all fourth-graders cannot read at the basic level, Rasco said. The America Reads Challenge calls on all Americans to pitch in and help teach children to read well and independently by the end of third grade.

With the help of the online resource kit, volunteers can learn how to reach and serve children who are most in need of help. Included are suggestions on bringing families, schools, libraries, colleges, businesses and community organizations together in the effort.

The Web site provides a step-by-step guide for planning, goal-setting, implementation and evaluation of a reading program that is customized to meet the needs of the community.

Pages with ideas on how to locate children who need help and for recruiting, screening and training tutors are included.

Specific guidelines for effective tutoring are presented. Potential tutors will learn how to ask questions to assure comprehension, use paired or "duet" reading with the pupil, respond to pronunciation errors, and help the trailing reader -- who reads just after the tutor -- avoid making mistakes.

The Web site has links to research on literacy and to organizations that can provide additional assistance, such as Baltimore Reads. This local nonprofit organization, which can be reached by calling 410-752-3595, offers training for tutors, placement for volunteers in existing reading programs and guidance in setting up new programs.

"It's a great Web site," said Maggi Gaines, executive director of Baltimore Reads. "It's consumer-friendly, and it has some terrific information. It's a site that engages a broad cross-section of consumers in the challenge of helping youngsters develop strong reading skills."

The Web site has information for those who may not want to start a community program, but want to help develop a nation of readers.

There are tips for parents on preparing their children for reading and improving reading skills; for educators on how to encourage parents to get involved; and for employers on ways to encourage employees and customers to read and write with their children.

The resource kit can be found at www.ed.gov/inits/america- reads/resourcekit/.

For more information call 1-800-USA-LEARN.

Pub Date: 5/09/99

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