Tales from the Tutors: Mr. Dan the Reading Man

Jul 26, 2018

Recess or reading?

Most people would expect a third grader to choose recess, but Ryan didn’t hesitate before choosing to skip recess so that he could read with Mr. Dan the Reading Man.

Dan Daugherty, an AR Kids Read tutor, had showed up for their regular tutoring time, but there had been a change in schedule to where Ryan was just about to leave for recess. When Ryan decided to stay with him to read, it was a moment that Dan would never forget.

“It made my heart skip a beat,” he said. “It makes you realize that there is a lot more to this than tutoring. We are forging relationships that [the kids] wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. They get to see someone besides their immediate family that they know cares about them.”

Dan started tutoring at Booker Arts Magnet School this past year, and he has already become an integral part of the school, according to Ruth Keogh, the school’s site coordinator. When another tutor had to stop working with her students prior to the semester break, Ruth asked Dan if he could work with one of those students in addition to his own two students temporarily until she could find a replacement. He came to see her that afternoon and asked if he could tutor all three boys for the rest of the year.

“His boys adore him, and the teachers are so grateful for his work and dedication to these young men,” Ruth said. “The three boys he works with have made tremendous growth this year. Each one is different, but he has brought out the best in each one of them.”

Dan retired from a career in public relations about five years ago. Even though his background is not in education, he is learning methods that help the students improve their literacy skills. When they encounter challenging words, Dan uses phonics to help them figure it out.  When he noticed one of his students reading too fast without really picking out the words, Dan started taking turns reading with him to demonstrate how to slow down in order to read each word clearly. Sometimes, when a student is not able to focus on reading, he has learned to adjust and use the time for mentoring so that their session is still beneficial.

“Mr. Dan is incredibly animated with his students,” said Keianna Cunningham, his AR Kids Read tutor coordinator. “He engages with his students, and they engage with the text. During their sessions, he creates a ‘happy place’ centered around reading.”

As a result, not only are Dan’s regular students willing to skip recess, other students have been asking if he can work with them, too.

“I wish every kid could have a Mr. Dan in their lives,” Ruth said.