Volunteer Tutoring

“Three years ago, I went to the housing authority of our town and asked if I could organize people from my church to tutor children in a housing project. They said okay, so I started a program. Then I recruited eight other churches to get involved and start their own programs. All together we now serve about 350 kids a week in cooperation with their schools and teachers. We’re not funded by any government program, but every student who comes has a single tutor. We pick the kids up in buses and bring them to our church at around 6 o’clock on Monday nights. About 80 adults show up to help. The kids have to sit down and work hard for at least 45 minutes with their tutors on their homework or reading. Then we feed them and play games in the gym. By 8 o’clock, they’re back home.”

“The most important thing about this is that the kids know that there are adults out there who care about them. Many of these kids don’t get individualized attention except on tutoring night. These kids are all smart. It’s just a matter of getting their own desire started. We’ve got so many kids who were getting D’s and F’s, but they were smart kids. After six months of tutoring program, they now get A’s and B’s.”

—Jimmy England

Pharmacist and founder, church tutoring program

Jackson, Tennessee

How effective is volunteer tutoring?

How can it be used most effectively?

Good volunteer programs must include comprehensive screening procedures for selecting volunteers, professional training of tutors, and excellent supervision of their ongoing work with children. Volunteers are particularly helpful when they spend their time reading to children, giving children supported practice in oral reading, and allowing opportunities for enriching conversation. However, volunteers should not be used to provide primary or remedial instruction to children. Nor should they be expected to deal effectively with children who have serious reading problems. Volunteer tutors can provide very valuable practice and motivational support for children learning to read.

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