Make a difference in a child’s life through the Minnesota Reading Corps

If you are looking to make a difference in the lives of young students, consider becoming a Minnesota Reading Corps literacy tutor and experience life-changing growth.

The Minnesota Reading Corps is the nation’s largest state AmeriCorps program with a goal of helping all Minnesota children become successful readers by the end of third grade. AmeriCorps literacy tutors implement literacy strategies every day to build reading skills of children in need. Tutors work one-on-one with their students or in small groups during the school day.

Reading Corps literacy tutors Becky LaBeau (left) and Connie Cassa display the journal students use while utilizing Reading Corps services within the Cambridge-Isanti School District. Reading Corps is a program offered through the federal AmeriCorps program for students through third grade.

Reading Corps literacy tutors Becky LaBeau (left) and Connie Cassa display the journal students use while utilizing Reading Corps services within the Cambridge-Isanti School District. Reading Corps is a program offered through the federal AmeriCorps program for students through third grade.Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Tonya Ferguson, Connie Cassa and Becky LaBeau are Reading Corps literacy tutors within the District 911 Cambridge-Isanti School District. They work one-on-one with students for approximately 20 minutes per school day.

Reading Corps literacy tutors are paid through the AmeriCorps program and receive a biweekly living stipend of approximately $484 (for full-time), as well as education award to pay for their own education, student loans or education for their children or grandchildren. The school district is responsible for providing literacy tutors with a work space.

Full- and part-time tutors commit to one year of AmeriCorps service, beginning in August. Literacy tutors are needed within District 911, and interested parties are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Literacy tutors are parents, grandparents, recent college graduates, mid-career professionals and retirees who may want to get more involved in the schools, explore a new career in education, re-enter the work force or give back to their community. Reading Corps trains all their tutors prior to beginning service.

Ferguson explained Reading Corps tutors work with students who are reading below grade level, and benchmarks and goals are set within the school year.

“We take students who need a little extra boost of time to get where they need to be for their grade level,” Ferguson said.

LaBeau explained the tutors work on reading passages with the students.

“It’s very rewarding working with the students,” LaBeau said. “I had one student with a score of 31 work their way up to a score of 107. The one-on-one connection we are able to have with these students really makes a difference. And we see the kids end up working harder in all their subjects to try to be as successful as possible.”

Ferguson said it’s rewarding to see the “light-bulb” moments in students.

“The best thing about this program is seeing when a kid gets it,” Ferguson said. “Most of the student we see don’t like reading because they’re not successful at it. But once they start reading better and more affluently, they learn to love reading.”

Cassa said when students read better, they have better self-confidence.

“The kids just walk in beaming,” Cassa said. “Their self-confidence just starts growing by leaps and bounds.”

Ferguson said District 911 is very supportive of the Reading Corps program.

“The school district has been wonderful to work with,” Ferguson said. “The teachers make it very easy for us to work with the students and make it a very positive experience for all of us.”

Ferguson explained a person can only be a Reading Corps literacy tutor for a maximum of four years and being a member of AmeriCorps also requires some volunteer work.

Cassa said a Reading Corps tutor needs to have a desire to work with students.

“You need to have an ability to work with kids and a desire for kids to do well,” Cassa said.

LaBeau noted the network of Reading Corps tutors within District 911 are very supportive of each other, and offer suggestions and guidance to each other as needed.

“Being a Reading Corps literacy tutor is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Ferguson said.

To become a Reading Corps literacy tutor, you need to fill out an application. After that, there is an interview process with AmeriCorps, as well as with the school district.

LaBeau mentioned there is also an institute offered in the Twin Cities that Reading Corps literacy tutors attend prior to the start of the school year that is a very rewarding and positive experience, and paid through AmeriCorps.

Nearly 80 percent of Minnesota Reading Corps participants achieved more than a year’s worth of progress in one year’s time, exceeding state and national averages and dramatically surpassing what would have typically been expected. Since 2003, Minnesota Reading Corps has grown from serving 250 children to about 30,000 at more than 700 sites statewide.

Besides literacy tutors, math tutors are also needed in school districts throughout Minnesota.

For more information on becoming a literacy tutor or math tutor, visit MinnesotaReadingCorps.org or MinnesotaMathCorps.org. You can also email recruitment@servemnaction.org or call 866-859-2825.

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