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April 14, 2009

Experience Corps study shows big reading gains

I write today about how being a volunteer in an urban school helps kids and the health of adult tutors. 

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?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:03 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Nation, Baltimore City, Study, study!


Experience Corps is a wonderful program. I wish more individuals were aware of its existence and opportunities.

I believe this is similar to the program The Greater Homewood Community Organization had in place at some of the area elementary schools. They presented on this program that The Urban Education forum held the week before spring break at the University of Baltimore Law School.

Experience Corps IS the program that Greater Homewood Community Corporation has run for over 10 years in the city with great success! Greater Homewood takes pride in its work with Experience Corps because the program has a triple win. The kids benefit, the schools and school climates benefit and the older adults themselves benefit. So often society must decide whether they can afford to fund programs benefitting children or programs benefitting older adults. In this program each dollar spent benefits both kids and seniors.

The benefits from the program are clear. JHU Center on Aging and Health, a partner in Experience Corps from the beginning, has demonstrated results for children, schools and older adults. The data from Washington University that was just released on both children and adults shows similar results.

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