Experience Corps study shows big reading gains
In talking about the tutors, I barely mention the kids. But a new study out of Washington University in St. Louis is worth a little more attention. It says that children who had these older adults as tutors made better than 60 percent more progress in two reading skills: reading comprehension and sounding out words.
Experience Corps is a national volunteer program that places at least 15 older tutors in a given school in kindergarten through third-grade classes. The volunteers, who have to be 55 or older, must commit to coming to the school for at least 15 hours a week for the academic year.
The Washington University study found that having an Experience Corps member in the classroom was the equivalent of reducing class size by 40 percent. The only groups that did not benefit, the study said, were students in special education.
The study was conducted over two years was funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies. It followed 800 students in 23 elementary schools in three cities. Half the students in the study were with Experience Corps volunteers and half were not.
What is so interesting, too, about these volunteers, is that many of them come from the communities around the schools. It's almost a formal way of having more neighborhood grandmas in schools. What kids wouldn't be helped having a grandma or grandpa there when they struggle to sound out a word or understand the meaning of a sentence?
And getting to know a few more adults in the neighborhood might also have benefits that carry into the streets. I am guessing here, but don't you think when those children move on to middle school and high school, they would be less likely to act up when they see the Experience Corps volunteer who sat beside them for hours in third-grade walking by?