Early literacy initiative engages volunteers to enhance the lives of young students
Calgary Reads is a volunteer-based organization that works to enhance literacy in Calgary’s youth. This early learning initiative is trying to change the lives of students in grade 1 and 2 that need the extra help and one-on-one attention that teachers have a hard time giving now that class sizes have gotten so big.
Teachers identify young students who they think would benefit the most from working with a dedicated volunteer tutor from Calgary Reads, the tutor and student have 40 minute sessions at least twice a week.
“In grade 1&2, they are learning to read; by grade 3 they are reading to learn. We need to get kids caught up by grade 3,” explains Anita Hofer, communications director for Calgary Reads. “It’s a very short window of opportunity to get them caught up to their peers.”
The statistics are surprising. It is estimated that 1 in 4 Canadian children entering grade 2 today are already significantly behind their peers in literacy and learning skills, without the intervention of Calgary Reads tutors these students can keep falling further behind their peers.
“When a student is having a hard time reading, it is hard on their self-confidence, and it can quickly escalate into not wanting to go to school,” says Hofer. “[The program] really opens doors for them, and is a boost to the student’s self-esteem.”
Calgary Reads is the little organization that could; the program that 10 years ago began with 25 volunteer tutors working with 40 students, now has 400 trained volunteer tutors who donate their time collaborating with 600 students in over 90 schools across Calgary.
In addition to the over 400 tutors, Calgary Reads has more than 700 additional volunteers donating their time to the program. The volunteer program at Calgary Reads is so engaging that they are nominated for a Leadership Award in the category of volunteer engagement. Tutoring is not the only volunteer position at Calgary Reads, they use their volunteers pre-existing skills to find something that is the best use of their talents.
Volunteer opportunities at Calgary Reads also connect volunteers with pre-existing skills to activities that make the best use of all their expertise. The volunteer positions are designed with flexibility in mind, you can put in as much or as little time as you have, but the rewards are plentiful.
“We often have tutors tell us that they look forward to going to their schools and see their students every week ,” says Hofer. “Our tutors make amazing connections with their students, and can become like a mentor to them. Being a volunteer tutor is a chance to do something truly meaningful.”