Volunteer tutors sought for kids’ reading program



AR Kids Read, a literacy intervention program for elementary school pupils, is recruiting adult volunteers to
spend one hour a week for 10 weeks helping Pulaski County area public school children hone their reading


The Cat in the Hat character from Dr. Seuss’ children’s book of the same name was among the dignitaries
Monday at a River Market Pavilion rally to recruit volunteer tutors and encourage young children to become
regular readers.


“I promise to read each day and each night,” Matthew DeSalvo in the Cat in the Hat costume read and asked
120 second-graders from four area schools to pledge.  


“I know it’s the key to growing up right,” the children shouted back at him. “I’ll read to myself. I’ll read to a
crowd. It makes no difference if silent or aloud.”


People interested in volunteering as tutors can select a school in the Little Rock, North Little Rock or Pulaski
County Special school districts. The list of schools, the available times for tutoring
and the volunteer registration
form are on the organization’s website: ARKidsRead.org.


The school districts will do a background security check on each volunteer applicant and provide a one hour
training session before the volunteer works with children.


Judy Hunt, who taught English and French at different places around the world and is now retired, attended the
Monday rally. She tutored four children at Little Rock’s Chicot Elementary School this past school year.


“I was looking for a volunteer project that would be rewarding and beneficial,” Hunt said about her involvement
in the cause.


She responded to a brochure from AR Kids Read that was placed on her car windshield and attended a training
session, which included watching a short video at the Little Rock School District’s Volunteers in Public Schools’
office. She chose Chicot and quickly began looking forward to her time with the four children and giving them
personal attention to help develop their love of reading.


“It was easy,” Hunt said of the process. “But it was hard to make that commitment to start. When I talk to my
friends — they are always interested — but it takes a little bit more to make them make the commitment to
sign up, go for the training and get the school placement.


“Once you are in your school, you feel committed enough to pursue it. Overcoming inertia is the challenge, but
it’s very rewarding. It’s nice contact with the kids.”


AR Kids Read, in its third year of operation, is seeking 600 volunteers to help children become proficient readers
by the start of the fourth grade. This past year, the organization recruited 420volunteers to work in 44 schools with
the help of more than 60 partner organizations, including families, foundations, churches and businesses of all sizes.


Rex Nelson, president of the Arkansas Independent Colleges and Universities, was the master of ceremonies at the
Monday rally.


“I’m a writer, and without readers, those of us who are writers are out of business,” Nelson told the children from
Boone Park, Indian Hills, Carver Magnet and Crystal Hill elementary schools. “I’m glad you guys like to read. I’m
glad these tutors are there to help you. “Volunteers have a real impact. We need more tutors.”


Corey Anderson, vice president of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation — the sponsor of the Arkansas Campaign for
Grade-Level Reading — told the children that they should plan to go to college or do something else specific after
high school to have a good opportunity for a fulfilling life.


“Did you know that reading and reading well is the best way to get to college? We want that for you,”said Anderson,
as he urged the children to commit to reading a book a day.


On the most recent 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test given to a sample of fourth- and
eighth-graders in every state, about one-third of Arkansas fourth-graders scored at proficient and advanced
levels in reading.


On the spring 2014 Arkansas Benchmark Exam in literacy, 75 percent of Little Rock School District third-graders
scored at proficient or advanced levels. That was below the 77 percent proficient rate form third-graders statewide.
Children scoring at proficient are said to be achieving at their grade level.


“Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, copyright 2014.”

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA SUE GERRITS School kids listen to speakers encouraging reading at a rally for the AR Kids Read program Monday at the River Market Pavilion in Little Rock. The program seeks volunteers to work with Pulaski County elementary school children on reading for an hour a week for 10 weeks.


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/MELISSA SUE GERRITS AR Kids Read community relations director Matthew DeSalvo, as the Cat in the Hat, greets schoolchildren before reciting a Dr. Seuss-inspired rhyme encouraging reading during a rally at the River Market Pavilion on Monday. AR Kids Read is a community service strategy that seeks volunteers to help children attain reading-level proficiency by the beginning of fourth grade.



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