A study from the U.S. Department of Education found that students with below-average reading skills who are tutored by volunteers show significant gains in reading skills when compared to similar students who do not receive tutoring from a quality program.

In the local area, tutors have the power to make in a difference in the community by giving their time and talent to help students become successful readers and learners. Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary School, along with schools in Nerstrand, Faribault and Pine Island, are in need of tutors for the 2021-22 school year.

A Minnesota Reading/Math Corps press release states even before the pandemic, more than 375,000 school age children in Minnesota were estimated to need extra help with reading and math. Now, after more than a year of disruptions to learning to due COVID-19, reading/math corps say the need is likely higher.

Ryan Balow, recruiter for Reading and Math Corps in southeastern Minnesota, says tutors work one-on-one or in small groups with students during school hours throughout the school year. Balow says all people, in all stages of life — whether a recent grad, career changer, stay-at-home parent or retiree — will make a great tutor. Minnesota Reading Corps also provides comprehensive training in strategies to help students learn, so tutors are well equipped to help students grow.

In Wanamingo specifically, Balow says one reading tutor is needed, whether it be one full time tutor or two part time tutors. Full time hours are considered 35 hours a week, while part time is 35 hours. Not too long ago K-W was also in need of one math tutor, but Balow said that vacancy has since been filled. Across the board, he finds that literacy scores have decreased because of remote learning due to COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, tutors were unable to achieve the amount of service hours needed since many schools were not in session. Balow said that made things more challenging, for both the tutor programs and students in need of the services. While in distance learning, Balow said tutors were able to offer an online tutoring option, something that that took place in most sites, including K-W. In the 13-county area Balow oversees, he says they were looking for just over 100 tutors. Currently having hired about 70, they are still looking for about 30 to 40 more.

Though the number of schools that have requested tutors remained the same, Balow said the number needed in those schools has increased. Members of the community interested being a reading tutor are encouraged to apply by July 29 at readingandmath.net. Positions are expected to begin Aug. 30 and require a 10-month commitment.

According to Reading Corps and Math Corps Managing Director Sadie O’Connor, in 2019, 38% of K-3 students were proficient in reading and 44% of eighth graders were proficient in math.

“While we can’t yet fully gauge the pandemic’s impact on these numbers, we do know the positive impact of high-dosage tutoring programs,” she said. “Tutors create a connection with kids that is vital to learning. Not only do most students flourish academically from tutoring, but they also build their confidence and are more engaged in all facets of school. Our goal is to help more than 30,000 students succeed this year.”

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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