Improving Reading Skills in Elementary Students

January 02, 2020 | United Way Team

Volunteering to read with children improves reading skills in participants and builds cross-generational relationships.

Learning-to-Love-ReadingHappening in seven elementary schools in two school districts in the Cedar Rapids area, Volunteers in Proficiency (VIP) pairs volunteers with elementary school students struggling with reading. VIP’s goal is to increase children’s success in school and foster a love of reading, because reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a predictor of high school graduation and life success. In the Cedar Rapids Metro area, more than one in four students do not read proficiently at the end of third grade. And, this literacy program is incredibly important in the fight for reading success in children.

“There are studies that have shown kids who aren't reading well by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school without a diploma. And it's worse for those living below the poverty line,” said Kent Mattison, VIP volunteer reader. “Poor reading skills also affect self-esteem and can lead to jobs with lower wages when they become adults and enter the work force.”

IMG_7693Volunteers in the program create bonds with children they read with as well. Each VIP session gives volunteers and their assigned students time to get to know each other and explore their favorite books together. With students ranging from first through fourth grade, volunteers read to students, listen to students read, or trade off reading to help the student increase their confidence. Volunteers read with the same two students individually for 20 minutes each week for twelve weeks during the fall and/or spring sessions.

“The thing that probably stands out the most is, once you get to know your reader a little bit and show interest in them and their reading, they are excited to take the time out of class and read for you,” said Mattison.

And it works. Just last year, the VIP Annual Report states VIP students improved their reading scores by 52 points. That is 14 points more than their peers not in the program.

For more information on how to become a VIP volunteer, visit our VIP page to get more information.