Changes in the education system in California over the last few years have created the need for new programs as well as expansion of programs that serve the literacy needs of children, specifically the K-3 students. These formative years are critical for the development of reading skills, which will effect the overall academic achievement of students.
The mission of the Tell Me A Story program is to create an innovative and fun literacy program which engages students in developing literacy skills through one-on-one tutoring and interactive storytelling component with the goal of improving reading levels as well as developing a lifelong love of reading.
Tell Me A Story has been effectively improving the reading and writing skills for more than 400 K-3 students annually in the south Glendale and Los Angeles area over the last three and a half years. The current program design has 76 part-time AmeriCorps members serving Monday through Thursday at 11 elementary school sites, conducting one-on-one tutoring sessions during school and then leading an after school program with the same children. This after school program is unique because it infuses literacy with theater and art. Tell Me A Story members use read alouds and interactive storytelling to promote oral language skills, reading comprehension (characters, sequencing, cause and effect) and self-confidence. On a monthly basis students participating in the after school program have theatrical presentations for their schools.
The impact of the one-on-one tutoring is highlighted by the results of the on-going tutee assessments. For the past three years 67% of the students increased their reading levels by the end of the year. The remaining 33% increased their basic alphabet skills. Teacher pre- and post-evaluations have directly linked students’ reading and writing improvement to tutoring. In addition, schools have noted an increased confidence and self-esteem in their students and have been pleasantly surprised at their increased participation in the classroom. In order to reinforce and encourage more reading by students, parents and consistently involved in the program and keep track of their child’s home reading through a log.
Tell Me A Story part-time members are enrolled at Glendale Community College. These students receive federal work-study funds and are paid minimum wage. Upon completion of their service hours (900 or 450) they will receive an educational award to use toward continuing their education.
Most of the Members are recent high school graduates and many are the first person in their family to go to college. With so many new expectations and responsibilities, Tell Me A Story has been pleased that the Members keep their focus on the children and often go above and beyond the call of duty to support their growth and learning. Members sometimes face apathy and bias against these children and they have learned to become advocates for them at the school sites and even with their parents. As a result, Members learn how to be advocates for themselves – something that is not quantifiable but will benefit them for the rest of their lives.