As students across the country face the risk or reality of school campus closures and other learning disruptions while the COVID-19 pandemic continues shaking up society, Reading Partners has redoubled its innovation efforts to ensure that its programs can support students in any learning environment. In addition to offering its traditional in-person one-on-one literacy tutoring where it is safe to do so, Reading Partners is launching a new online tutoring program: Reading Partners Connects.
What is Reading Partners Connects?
Reading Partners Connects is an innovative online program that will allow Reading Partners to continue to partner with schools and provide volunteer-led one-on-one literacy instruction to students in situations where school campuses are closed to volunteers or where students are in blended learning environments. The program, which is a central part of a suite of innovations called Reading Partners Beyond, also expands Reading Partners’ ability to support even more students and families in the future.
Communities are stepping up to confront an extraordinary challenge
As an indication that people across the country are proactively looking for ways to help students amid the public health crisis, over 2,000 people signed up to attend Reading Partners’ national virtual information session about their innovation programs that was held on August 20. During the event, chief knowledge officer, Dean Elson, highlighted that recent studies are showing that in a scenario where school closures and part-time schedules continue intermittently through the 2020–21 school year, and in-school instruction does not fully resume before January 2021, most students will lose an average of 7 months of learning due to COVID-19. And while the forecasted impact is over 12 months of learning loss for students experiencing economic disadvantages, Elson stressed that by not making assumptions about how students have spent their time during the last few months, and instead engaging students with a flexible mindset, patience, and a willingness to learn and adapt, tutors are well-positioned to help students make the literacy gains they need to keep progressing academically.
Partnerships with local churches and community centers
Locally, in Charleston, where pandemic safety measures will prevent Reading Partners volunteers from returning to schools to deliver the traditional in-person program, Reading Partners has worked to engage the community to implement Reading Partners Connects. Thanks to newfound partnerships with the following area churches and community centers, Reading Partners South Carolina will be able to provide remote volunteer centers where volunteers can deliver the Reading Partners Connects curriculum while socially distanced and with on-site support from literacy experts:
St. Matthews Lutheran Church
Westminster Presbyterian Church
James Island Presbyterian
Wadmalaw Community Center
Northwoods Baptist Church
First Christian Church of Moncks Corner
Deer Park Baptist Church
Reading Partners South Carolina is actively looking to identify and create partnerships with additional churches and community centers so that it can continue to serve Lowcountry students with the same capacity as previous years. For more information or to connect with Reading Partners, please contact Christine Messick, Community Engagement Manager, at christine.messick@
Reading Partners is a proven literacy program that can adapt to challenges like COVID-19
Despite the seismic interruption to the normal school year last spring, Reading Partners responded quickly across the nation to deliver timely student literacy solutions. In South Carolina, Reading Partners delivered 12 or more tutoring sessions to 623 students through March with its traditional in-school program and then urgently shifted to a mix of innovative online and family engagement programs designed to help Reading Partners students (and others) preserve as much learning progress as possible. All of the results from 2019-20 can be reviewed in the impact & innovation report.
Support for students is needed now more than ever
A late-July business article in The New York Times observed that many nonprofits are facing funding shortages and other operational challenges at the very time their services are needed most by society. The following are key ways to help strengthen Reading Partners’ efforts to provide innovative literacy support to students in South Carolina and across the country:
Make a donation at readingpartners.org to allow Reading Partners to continue innovating throughout the unpredictable school year ahead.
Give a year of service by joining Reading Partners as an AmeriCorps member, serving in a school, supporting volunteers and assisting young readers in achieving their literacy goals. For their service to the community, AmeriCorps members are granted a bi-weekly stipend and the opportunity to save money toward education. View the role description to learn more or to apply for a school-based AmeriCorps role with Reading Partners.
Returning volunteers will be contacted by regional team members who will gauge interest and schedule tutor orientation sessions.
New volunteers can sign up online to get on the contact list for tutoring later this fall.
By tutoring a student one-on-one for about an hour a week, volunteers can make an impact that can quite literally alter the course of a child’s educational experience and life.
Learn more at www.readingpartners.org.
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