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More Maryland Seniors Head Back to School for Reading Lessons

PHOTO: Experience Corps volunteers in Baltimore work with students one-on-one and in small groups, targeting kids who are struggling with literacy. Photo credit: Experience Corps Baltimore.
PHOTO: Experience Corps volunteers in Baltimore work with students one-on-one and in small groups, targeting kids who are struggling with literacy. Photo credit: Experience Corps Baltimore.
May 19, 2014

BALTIMORE - Nearly 8,000 kindergarten-through-third-grade students in Baltimore City Schools have special literacy coaches - and the connection is boosting test scores.

The program, which places volunteers in classrooms, has been so successful that it is being expanded to pre-kindergarten classrooms thanks to a grant from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, said Bill Romani, AARP Experience Corps branch director.

Many volunteers are former teachers or come from law enforcement, and Romani said he finds they have a strong commitment to service.

"Take the wisdom and knowledge and experience of our seniors," he said, "and use that to help work on some of society's most intractable and difficult problems."

Experience Corps volunteers work with students one-on-one and in small groups, targeting children who are struggling with literacy. Not only are reading scores improved, but chronic absences are reduced.

Romani said they will soon be adding to the list of 350 senior volunteers, and are recruiting people interested in helping to ensure a child's success.

"One of the most important things for a child is for them to be able to read at grade level by third grade," he said. "It really sets them up to graduate from high school, and to get a job and be able to make a significant contribution to their community, and to society."

The Experience Corps program sends those in the 50-plus set into classrooms around the country, and the Baltimore branch is the largest in the nation.

Romani can field calls from seniors interested in volunteering at 443-278-9400.

Deborah Courson Smith/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - MD