A new collaboration between Reynoldsburg schools and Kiddie Academy of Reynoldsburg is using high school and community volunteers to help elementary students improve their reading skills.
Carol Haynes, director of Kiddie Academy of Reynoldsburg, said the LIFT (Learning is Fun with my Tutor) project began recently at Herbert Mills and Summit Road elementary schools with teachers selecting the students to be tutored. Plans are to expand the program to all district elementary schools this fall.
The project is "designed to be a fun, relaxing, yet educational program" for students in first through third grades, Haynes said.
"Our tutors are enthusiastic, reliable and dedicated," she said.
So far, 45 students and about 55 tutors, who include high school students, senior citizens and community volunteers, are involved in the project.
The LIFT tutoring occurs after school in both buildings; two 30-minute sessions are scheduled on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Haynes said the tutors go through training sessions to learn how to help students sound out words and learn context clues to develop stronger reading skills.
Ohio's new third-grade reading guarantee, which requires teachers to retain third-graders who do not pass state reading tests, prompted a conversation last July between Haynes and Jane Ensign, who works with Reynoldsburg schools to coordinate outreach projects such as high school internship opportunities.
"We wanted to create a community-based mentoring program that supports what teachers are working to accomplish in the classroom," Haynes said.
She said the program is "going well" so far.
"We are exposing students to children's books and inspiring them to read," she said. "Our high school mentors at Summit brought in their own favorite children's books to read.
"As I looked around the library and walked down the hallways during the most recent tutoring session, I realized we have developed a program that will also improve students' self-esteem and help them build relationships with volunteers," she said.
Haynes said she enjoyed listening in on the "warm and inviting getting-to-know you conversations" at the tutoring sessions.
"I saw students on day two looking in anticipation for their mentors," she said.
The program is free. Tutors and children receive a light snack before the sessions.
Kiddie Academy employees Holly Williamson and Adrianne Johnson are working with administrators at both schools to coordinate the project. They are paid their regular salaries by Kiddie Academy; the school district does not pay them.
Haynes said LIFT is the only program in the city at this time that pairs high school students and senior citizens with elementary school students.
"Targeted mentoring based on each student's individual need is the most valuable part of our program," she said.
More volunteers are needed, especially when the program expands in the fall, Haynes said. Tutors may volunteer one day, two days or three days a week.
"We would like to serve 25-30 students in each building and will need approximately 200 tutors to meet the needs of the district," Haynes said.
People interested in volunteering should call Haynes at 614-866-1422 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.