As a retired elementary school teacher, Rita Marinello is no stranger to hard work and education. The commitment she brings to her volunteer work at OASIS is unwavering. She is a tutor in the OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program. In this unique and rewarding program, Marinello helps local schools recruit and train older adults to work with children in Kindergarten through fourth grade that are having difficulty learning to read. She and other tutors work one-on-one with the students for an hour each week throughout the school year as mentors and friends.
The need for Marinello’s service to the community is immense. Teachers have found that a growing percentage of school children are failing to learn to read well in grades K-3. The most recent National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” shows that more than four in 10 Arizona fourth graders lack basic reading skills. The survey of Phoenix schools revealed that many perform at or near the Arizona average. Many Phoenix area elementary school students need more reading help than they now receive. Students who benefit most are often stuck in the “gray area”: they do not qualify for special services, but they need extra help. A fundamental principle of education is that during the first through third grades, children are learning to read; after that they are reading to learn.
Tutors such as Rita Marinello provide the individual attention and instruction that is so effective in the early stages of development. She and her partner, Janet Keyser, provide the training for new tutors. In the 12-hour training, volunteers are taught from the OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring model and are required to break into one-on-one sessions with each other to become comfortable with this process. Recognizing the need to maintain enthusiasm and skill development during the summer when school is not in session, Marinello began conducting a series of seminars called “Helping Hands.” These sessions include guest speakers and hands-on activities that promote sharing, cooperation, and interaction.
In addition to her one-on-one sessions during the school year, Marinello also reads to approximately 1,800 students in the five schools in which she tutors, using a single innovative toolherself. Knowing how important it is to reach today’s young people in an effective, positive manner, she developed a wholesome method to capture and hold the student’s attention. She has had an impact on thousands of children since she joined the OASIS volunteer ranks. They have learned to read, build up their self-esteem, and have become better students.