America Reads tutors bring hybrid tutoring sessions and "lots of dance breaks" to Ypsilanti schools

Finding creative ways to help children learn to read fluently by third grade is the focus of America Reads tutors, who are supporting pupils at several schools around Ypsilanti.   

Raven Jones is the America Reads and literacy programs manager with the University of Michigan (U-M) Ginsberg Center's America Reads Tutoring Corps program. She says that about 150 U-M students take part in the federally supported work-study program, tutoring pupils in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and Detroit.

This year, many of those tutors are working with Ypsilanti-based pupils at Holmes and Erickson elementary schools, some students attending Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) virtually, and pupils involved with the Bright Futures program at Holmes and Ford Early Learning Center.

"Our mission is to have students reading well and independently by third grade," Jones says. "During our tutor training, we also dive into educational equity data so the students understand the 'why' behind what we're doing. The state of Michigan has historically ranked in the bottom five in terms of literacy outcomes, and we need them to have that systems-level view on literacy."

Jones says tutors are working in a hybrid format this year, meeting for an hour twice a week in person at Holmes, Erickson, and Ford, and virtually with some of the students attending online school this year. The program also matches bilingual tutors with students who speak more than one language whenever that's possible, Jones says.

While in-person tutoring has great advantages, Jones says tutors are working hard to "keep kids engaged virtually" by using online tools like Boom Cards and a program called BookNook.

"It's an interactive online program aligned to common core reading standards, but disguised as a game," Jones says. "There's a robust repository of online activities tutors can use with students. Students had to report their lessons, and looking at them, I was really amazed at how creative they were in presenting information in a fun way online. And there were lots of dance breaks."

America Reads also offers a virtual family program to all YCS students, where students can drop in for online tutoring between 4-7 p.m. on designated nights.

"We're working to strengthen our family outreach," Jones says. "Every quarter we have some kind of family information night, and we have newsletters that go out to families."

More information about the program is available here

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of the Ginsberg Center.