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April 01, 2015

Volunteers can improve kids' reading proficiency

They are an underutilized resource

Education Reading
03312015_ReadingPartners Reading Partners/AP

Reading Partners provides one-on-one tutors for elementary school children in California.

While public schools often rely on volunteers for events like dances or field trips, new research suggests that they are an "underutilized resource" in schools who can provide much more educational value, The Washington Post reports.

New evidence indicates that volunteers can help improve children's reading proficiency. 

An evaluation of preschoolers in the Minnesota Reading Corps program found that they were much more likely to gain the literacy skills needed for kindergarten than other preschoolers. The program relies on AmeriCorps service members to identify and tutor struggling students.

Another study examined Oakland, Calif.-based Reading Partners and found that the tutoring program, whose volunteers had no special training in literacy education, added about two months of additional growth in students’ reading proficiency.

Both programs already have expanded into multiple states and have visions of growing further, bolstered by the burgeoning evidence that, armed with the right training and curriculum, volunteers can play an important role in closing the nation’s persistent achievement gap in reading.

“Volunteers really can make a difference, and they’re a somewhat underutilized resource by schools to improve things for kids,” Robin Jacob, a research scientist at the University of Michigan’s education school, told The Washington Post. “It’s something that deserves wider attention than it’s gotten in recent years.”

Read more from The Washington Post.