For the parents of kids who are currently in kindergarten through third grade at Nevada, Colo-Nesco or Collins-Maxwell schools, here’s a great opportunity for your children to stay on top of their reading skills this summer.


For the first time ever, Raising Readers in Story County (RRSC) is bringing its Summer Reading Buddies tutoring program to Nevada to serve kids here and in the two nearby school districts.


Each summer since 2014, the program has been offered only in Ames, where 80 kids took part at nine sites last year. This year, the program will be brought to two sites in Nevada, which will be located at First United Methodist Church and Story County Medical Center, and will remain at eight sites in Ames.


According to Kim Hanna, executive director for RRSC, Raising Readers created K-three Reading Buddies as a free, six-week summer tutoring program to promote literacy skills for children who needed a little extra help over the summer to maintain or improve their literacy skills and reading levels.


“By not reading over the summer, kids can experience the ‘summer slide,’ which leads to a child starting school in the fall behind where they finished in their literacy skills at the end of the last school year,” Hanna explained. “This can slow down the learning process.”


Geared to students who are not reading at grade level yet, Hanna said, the program works by pairing every child with a trained volunteer tutor, with whom they meet twice a week to receive personalized reading sessions. For the entire six weeks, the student works with the same tutor at each 45-minute session.


Hanna said last summer, there were several students from Nevada who made the trip to Ames to participate in the program. Since RRSC also had expanded its StoryPals and Super K programs (see sidebar) to Nevada already, it made sense to bring this program to Nevada as well.


“We are excited to work with both the First United Methodist Church and Story County Medical Center to host tutoring sessions for Nevada, Colo-Nesco and Collins-Maxwell families who are interested in signing up their children,” Hanna said. She emphasizes, a child has to have finished kindergarten before he or she can enroll. She also notes that the Story County Medical Center site is open for evening sessions for those who need to bring their kids in the evening to make it work.


Right now, the most needed part of the program, Hanna emphasizes, is tutoring volunteers. “We definitely need volunteers from Nevada to participate. Last year we had 80 children enrolled in the program (in Ames) and 48 volunteers,” she said, adding that several volunteers did more than one session at their site and worked with more than one child each week.


Volunteers commit about two hours per child they work with each week. “We ask them to arrive 15 minutes before each session starts to go over lesson plans again and ask any questions they have,” Hanna said. The program is six weeks long, and there will be no sessions during the week of July 4. There is required training for all volunteers, which includes an orientation, even if the volunteers are current or retired teachers or have done the program in the past. “We also conduct background checks on all of our volunteers,” Hanna added.


Training/orientation happens in June and is conducted by RRSC Family Literacy Coordinator Lisa Reeves, who works with the program.


Each session includes the student reading to the volunteer, the volunteer reading to the student, word sorts and literacy activities, and writing exercises. “We do our best to match the student one-on-one with a volunteer, which is why our volunteers are so important. Last year, we only had a couple of doubled-up children — they were cousins, and I worked with them,” Hanna said.


Success of the program has been measured with both hard and anecdotal evidence, Hanna said, noting that both types of feedback are awesome to have.


“Last year, of the children who participated in both pre- and post-tests at the beginning and end of the program, ALL of the children at least maintained their reading levels, and many improved,” she said. “And from the children who weren’t at the sessions the last week because of vacation schedules, information from their volunteer tutors told us that they also at least maintained their levels.”


Hanna said she is proud of the great working relationship that RRSC has with administrators and staff at both Central and Colo-Nesco elementary schools. “That teachers and the school districts see this as an important tool for student success is a success,” she said. “We’ve had parents tell us that their child improved even more once school started because they had this experience over the summer, and that their child enjoyed reading more. We have parents request their volunteers again the next summer because they know it made a difference. This is only a six-week program, so you’re not going to see reading levels jump from an F to an M, but you may see it jump from an F to a G or an H. We do a great job of matching child interest with the books and activities they are doing.”


Summer Reading Buddies will run from June 19 through Aug. 3, excluding the July 4 week. Sessions are either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. In Nevada, the program dates correlate with the dates of the Nevada Summer Enrichment Program, which RRSC also supports and helps with. “So if you enroll your child in Food For Thought, you can absolutely enroll them in this (program) as well,” she said.


How did Summer Reading Buddies start?


This program was developed by an RRSC board member, Diana Claus, who is a professor at ISU and works with the Dufflemeyer Reading Clinic. The specific RRSC curriculum was developed by Dr. Donald Bear from the Clinic (who worked for a time with Claus); RRSC has made slight changes as the program has evolved. Sites were spread out through Ames so that parents and caregivers could easily get their children to the site. This year the eight sites in Ames are: Ames Public Library, Boys & Girls Club, Eastwood Apartments, Laverne Apartments, Bethesda Lutheran Church, City Church, Trinity Christian Reformed Church and Ames Community Preschool.


Who do people contact, or where do they go for more information about Summer Reading Buddies to participate or volunteer?


Summer Reading Buddies needs volunteers! If you are interested in either volunteering or enrolling a student, please visit http://www.raising-readers.org/programs/k-3-reading-buddies/. If you have questions, please email Lisa Reeves at literacy@raising-readers.org or call 515-520-8686.


Our program runs the same dates as the Nevada Summer Enrichment Program, and we are part of that program as well, so if you enroll your child in Food For Thought, you can absolutely enroll them in this as well. Doing one of the programs does not mean you can’t do both, and that goes for volunteers too!


Days and hours for reading sessions in Nevada:


First United Methodist Church will offer sessions Tuesday and Thursday, from 1-1:45 p.m. or 2-2:45 p.m.


Story County Medical Center will offer sessions on Monday and Wednesday, from 5:30-6:15 p.m. or 6:30-7:15 p.m.


What is the deadline to sign up?


Registration deadline is June 5. Both student registration and volunteer applications are online at: http://www.raising-readers.org/programs/k-3-reading-buddies/.