Reading Partners would like you to read between the lines: More volunteers are needed to partner with elementary schoolchildren.
The nationwide nonprofit’s local branch has been working with children at seven Pasadena Unified School District elementary schools each week, tutoring them on reading fundamentals and in practice.
But a dire need for more volunteers to read to the children has driven up a wait list of more than 100 young students in Pasadena who are still waiting for a reading partner.
“We could easily accommodate more than 200 new volunteers,” said Laura Zachar, executive director of Reading Partners Los Angeles, noting that it is easy work and enormously gratifying to those who donate their time. “For many of our students, the one-on-one attention is so valuable. Having someone who comes to see them and support them while they are improving their reading skills makes a great impact.”
Reading Partners works with children — identified by their teachers as needing help in boosting their reading level — between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Each student receives two 45-minute sessions per week with a private tutor. Reading Partners is present at Cleveland, Washington, Jackson, Madison, McKinley, Jefferson and Longfellow Elementary Schools.
Volunteers are asked to commit to at least one hour per week, but are always welcome to do more, and are asked to give their time through the end of the school year to provide their student buddy with some consistency. There is a minimum age requirement of 14 years old to volunteer, so high school students looking to complete community service hours are also welcome. The nonprofit provides weekly orientations, so volunteers can get started right away. All the materials are provided on site, and no experience working with children is necessary. All that is required is a training session and a background check.
Founded in 1999, Reading Partners expanded to include three Pasadena schools in 2008 and four more have been added since 2014. Private fundraising primarily drives the organization. Locally, Zachar has said up to half of their Pasadena schools’ elementary students could be behind on their reading level.
“I had a hard time learning to read, because it did not come naturally,” said Margaret Gonder O’Dell, a tutor at Cleveland Elementary School. “I remember what it was like seeing other children catch on much faster. It didn’t click for me until 4th grade, but I went on to get a master’s degree in English. I volunteer because I want to help foster a love for reading early.”
For more information on Reading Partners and how to volunteer, go to https://readingpartners.org/volunteer/ or call (213) 399-8599.
— Camila Castellanos