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Program Helps AZ Students Become Better Readers

PHOTO: A program centered on helping Phoenix area elementary school students to read at grade level is showing strong results. Photo credit City of Tempe, Arizona.
PHOTO: A program centered on helping Phoenix area elementary school students to read at grade level is showing strong results. Photo credit City of Tempe, Arizona.
July 8, 2015

PHOENIX - Hundreds of Phoenix area students in first through third grades are reading at or near grade level thanks to volunteers who work with the youngsters one on one.

Tim Valencia, youth and education manager with the City of Phoenix Youth and Education Office, says the AARP Experience Corps program, a partnership with AARP Arizona, just completed its first year in the city and is helping many students become better readers.

"We've experienced 98 percent of the students received educational increases in fluency based on their individual school assessment."

Valencia says about 90 Experience Corps volunteers worked with some 300 students at several schools during the last school year.

He says Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has made a pledge that no third grader in the city will be reading below grade level. Valencia adds, research shows if students are not reading at grade level by third grade, the likelihood that they drop out in high school increases dramatically.

Valencia says each volunteer can tutor several students at school. He says the city plans to expand the program into several more schools, which will require doubling the number of volunteers.

"So we're just looking for anybody who has a passion for reading," he says. "Who wants to give back to their community, and donate at least five hours a week to a local school."

Valencia says the AARP Experience Corps program has also been in Tempe for several years and that more volunteers are also needed there. Volunteers have to be over the age of 50, and more information is available at aarp.org/az.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ