Learn for Life

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Learn for Life, a United Way of Portage County internal program, in partnership with Portage County school districts, local businesses and community members, provides young children with tutors on a regular basis to increase reading achievement in the early grades.

Learn for Life Schools

During the 2014-15 school year, Learn for Life’s fifth year of programming, volunteers third grade students at thirteen schools throughout Portage County: Rosholt Elementary, Almond-Bancroft Elementary, Tomorrow River Elementary, St. Stephen Elementary, St. Bronislava Elementary, as well as all nine Stevens Point public elementary schools.

                         Portage County Schools                                                                   Stevens Point Schools

Through this dedication to the children in our area, community members had a measurable lasting effect on student reading achievement, and often, so much more.

Why is Reading Important?

Reading is a basic building block that gives children the tools they need to engage in a lifetime of learning.
•    A person who is not at least a moderately skilled reader by 3rd grade is less likely to graduate from high school.
•    An adult with low literacy skills earns on average 42% less than a high school graduate.
•    Research has shown a strong link between higher literacy and future academic achievement, improved self-esteem and the ability to be a productive and involved member of society.
•    From kindergarten through 3rd grade, children learn to read. After 3rd grade, they read to learn.

How it works:

•    Trained volunteer reading tutors are matched with children in the 2nd or 3rd grade who are identified as needing additional help with reading
•    The tutor and child meet to read together for 30 minutes each week (3rd graders) or 20 minutes a week (2nd graders) during the school year
•    Tutoring sessions are individualized and based on the student’s needs
•    Program data is accessed throughout the year

    2014-2015 School Year Results:

    •    The 2014-15 school year was the fifth year of the program. 114 students participated in Learn for Life within four school districts at thirteen elementary schools in Portage County- Rosholt Elementary, Almond-Bancroft Elementary, St. Stephen’s Elementary as well as all nine Stevens Point Area Public Elementary Schools.
    •    Each district chose the assessment tool for evaluating the program effectiveness.  In the Stevens Point District, our goal was that 60% of students in the program would achieve grade level proficiency or would exceed expected DRA2 grade level growth (DRA2 assessment tool). 83% of students in the program achieved grade-level proficiency and/or exceeded grade-level growth. 77% of the participants attained 4th grade reading levels, meaning they were academically ready for 4th grade reading!

    •    Thanks to the help of principals, reading specialists, teachers and tutors, the program has seen much success in our community. Because of this success, the program has been able to quickly expand and will be adding Tomorrow River School's 2nd grade classrooms in fall 2015.

    •    As the program continues to make an impact in Portage County, United Way will go on to research additional ways to enhance the program, including the possibility of expansion into other academic disciplines, grades and/or areas of need.

    Learn for Life FAQ

    *Why focus on third grade reading?
    Third grade is a critical time in a student’s education. Kindergarten through third grade children learn to read. After third grade, children read to learn.

    *How do you decide which children are in the program?
    We work very closely with the school districts, principals, reading specialists and teachers involved in the Learn for Life program. We have worked with the teachers and reading specialists to determine, based off of reading assessments already being done in each district, the students within a range of scores to decide which students will be tutored. Within those scores, and sometimes on the fringe of those scores, are students who might need a little more help with reading to get them to closer to reading proficiently. 

    *Do I just read with the student?
    Reading is often the primary focus of the tutoring sessions, but because each student has individual needs, the tutoring will focus on different reading activities and strategies to help each student on their needs.

    *How much time do I have to commit?
    The tutoring sessions take 1 hour per week (3rd grade - 30 minutes per student, two students total / 2nd grade – 20 minutes per student, three students total) of your time, the same day, same time each week.

    *Does 20/30 minutes a week with a student really make a difference?
    It really does! The one-on-one time that students are receiving from tutors makes a big difference. Not only does spending time with a caring adult make a difference, but because the tutoring session focuses on that child’s needs, you can make a difference in helping them with their reading proficiency.

    *Which schools is the program in?
    As of fall 2016, the program runs in 14 schools throughout Portage County, in 47 classrooms.

    *Can I pick which school I tutor in?
    We will take preferences into consideration, but returning tutors may be assigned to schools they were at previously, and, the tutoring sessions take place during the classroom’s reading time, which, may not always fit with each tutor’s availability.

    *Can I tutor in my relative’s classroom (ex: grandson)?
    Because of confidentiality concerns, we do not allow tutors to tutor in classrooms of their relatives.

    *How long is the training?
    Though we try to make the program easy for the tutors and the teachers, it is also a structured program that works to suit the needs of struggling readers and their individual needs. The Community Initiatives Associate usually meets individually with each tutor prior to the group training. The training has been created by a reading specialist and usually lasts approximately an hour and a half.

    *Does the tutoring time change?
    No. Once tutoring session times are set for a classroom it is the same time, same day each week with the same students throughout the school year.

    *What if I can’t commit to every week, but I still want to help?
    We realize that not everyone can commit to one hour per week, every week of a school year. Even those who can commit to every week have things that come up. That is why we need substitute tutors. Substitute tutors help when regularly scheduled tutors are unavailable. Substitute tutors go through the same training as regularly scheduled tutors, but are called to help when needed (in advance of the day of tutoring sessions).

    *I’ve never tutored before, am I still able to sign up?
    Absolutely. If you can read, you like children and want to help a child read you can sign up to be a tutor. Many of our tutors had never tutored prior to being a Learn for Life tutor, but have seen the benefits of the program, not only for the students, but for themselves as well.  *All tutors are interviewed prior to becoming tutors and are subject to a background check.

    *Is it after school?
    Learn for Life tutoring sessions take place during the school day, during the class’ scheduled reading block of time.

    *I work during the school day, but it sounds like something I would like to do. How can I get involved?
    Some tutors have worked their schedule out with their supervisors to be able to commit one hour per week (plus travel time) to the program by either making up that time each week, by taking lunch at a different time than usual, or some employers will agree to pay for volunteering time as a part of an Employee Volunteering Program.

    *How do I sign up?
    Signing up is easy! Go to www.volunteersrock.org and search under the NEEDS tab for Learn for Life, or call (715) 341-6740.

    Want to be a part of the success?

    Consider volunteering as a trained reading tutor. To learn more, call 715-341-6740, email uway@unitedwaypoco.org, or visit www.unitedwaypoco.org or www.volunteersrock.org.

    You can also apply by downloading this application form, filling it out, and returning it to Laura Pfeil, United Way of Portage County Community Services Manager, at laura@unitedwaypoco.org or 1100 Centerpoint Drive, #302, Stevens Point, WI 54481.

    Click here for a set of downloadable bookmarks.

    Click here for a Learn for Life display poster.

    Summer Sizzle Reading Series

    United Way of Portage County’s Learn for Life will heat up the summer again with its third annual Summer Sizzle Children’s Reading Series.

    Learn for Life will hold reading events for children, and the business sponsor will give a book to each child in attendance at each of the events.

    “Summer Sizzle reading events are great for both children and their parents,” said Laura Pfeil, United Way of Portage County Community Services Manager. “They are a great way to enjoy the value of reading together.”

    All events, which are geared to children ages 0 to 10, will include literacy-related activities. Check here for a schedule later this year.

    Learn for Life Annual Report 2014-15 (Check back in fall 2016 for 2015-16 school year results)

    Click here to view Learn for Life's Annual Report.

    Other resources

    For more literarcy-related ideas, check out the Read Every Day, Enjoy Reading Together, Discover, and Activate Brain flyers.





    PDF icon Learn for Life Annual Report.pdf3.58 MB