Think about your favorite book as a child. Go ahead, close your eyes, and remember all of the feelings and memories that it evokes. Do you feel proud because it was the first book you read on your own? Was it the first time that you felt connected to someone? Did it make you laugh or giggle? My favorite book as a child was ”Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon. It was the first time I felt transported to another world, and ever since then, I've been hooked.
Sadly, many Alexandria children have not had that defining moment with a book. Research has shown that if a child does not learn to read by third grade, he or she will have a hard time reading to learn in fourth grade and beyond and will be on the drop-out track, according to the Casey Foundation's 2010 Kid's Count Report. Reading and books are an important part of a child's development. There are a number of literacy focused nonprofits in Alexandria that recruit volunteer tutors for the school year to work closely with students who need more one-on-one attention.
One Alexandria nonprofit that places volunteer tutors in the city’s elementary schools is the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium (ATC). ATC’s mission is to provide the foundation for future learning success by helping to ensure children in the Alexandria City Public Schools can read at or above grade level by the end of third grade.
ATC and Volunteer Alexandria are working together to recruit enough volunteers to spend one hour a week tutoring in-need Alexandria kindergarteners and first graders. ATC volunteers choose the ACPS school at which they would like to tutor and are paired with a kindergarten or first-grade student who does not have the literacy skills needed to learn to read at grade level. Through individualized lesson plans, materials, and guidance, volunteers work with their student during the school day, from October through May.
Steve Rideout, retired chief judge of the Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, one of the founders of the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium in 1997 and a former ATC tutor, noted that "More often than not, tutors benefit as much from this work as do the students." He advocates for Alexandrians to "Change two lives! Be a tutor!"
Anyone can volunteer. Volunteer tutors are vital for those students that need extra help learning to read. For ATC’s program, it takes one hour a week (two 30-minute sessions) to make a difference for a child in need. Choose an elementary school that is convenient to your work and use your lunch break to volunteer. If you are at home during the day, use it as your reason to get out of the house. To sign up to volunteer, please visit www.VolunteerAlexandria.org and enter “Tutor” in the search engine. If you have any questions about volunteering, please contact Volunteer Alexandria at 703-836-2176.