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part of the Education Reform Networks

Becoming Successful Readers: A Volunteer Tutoring Program for Culturally Diverse Students

A study examined how culturally diverse students increased their reading/writing performance through a structured volunteer tutoring program. Two university professors developed volunteer tutoring programs at six elementary schools in southeastern Michigan. Program objectives were to: (1) increase the reading performance of culturally diverse students; (2) improve their attitudes toward reading; and (3) evaluate the program's efficacy. Tutees consisted of 291 elementary students, ages 6 to 10 years, who were reading below grade level. Tutors included 27 AmeriCorps volunteers (university students) who were culturally diverse, economically varied, and diversified in age and gender. After a minimum of two training sessions, tutors began conducting 30-minute one-to-one sessions either two or four times per week. During this time, they read multicultural literature with the children and questioned them interactively for 15 to 20 minutes. During the remainder of the session, they conducted word building strategies to reinforce knowledge of letter-sound relationships or word recognition activities to reinforce fluency. In addition, they engaged in reading/writing activities, such as choral readings, readers' theater, or journal writing. Findings showed greatest gains for second and third graders, but the sessions benefited all students. Data suggest that such a cost-effective program could be instituted to increase the literacy of diverse school populations. (Contains 13 tables, 2 figures, and 12 references.) (NKA)

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