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
*Due to COVID-19, data from the 2018-19 school year is the most current and completed information available. Programming will resume as soon as it is safe to do so.
During the 2018-19 school year, Learn for Life’s eighth year of programming, trained volunteers worked with third grade students at thirteen schools throughout Portage County: Rosholt Elementary, Almond-Bancroft Elementary, Tomorrow River 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
2019-2020 School Year Results:
During the tenth year of programing Learn for Life served 184 students in 54 different classrooms, with close to 100 volunteer tutors throughout Portage County. Due to COVID-19, the tenth year of Learn for Life programming was cut short. However, the program was able to gather assessment score results that reflect students’ growth from September of 2019 to March of 2020.
From the assessment scores that we were able to receive before COVID-19 developed, we saw that 42% of the second-grade students in the Learn for Life program, increased at least four levels and/or reached their spring level benchmark. If second grade students were able to finish the entire Learn for Life program year, we would have expected to see a larger growth closer to 90% achievement. In addition, 62% of the third-grade students in the Learn for Life program who took the required assessments met their expected growth and/or increased at least 12 points. If third-grade students were able to finish the entire Learn for Life program year, we would have expected to see a larger growth closer to 68% achievement.
Learn for Life FAQ
Why focus on second and third grade reading?
Second and 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 2019, the program runs in 13 schools throughout Portage County, in 54 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 Service Manager 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?
You can also apply by downloading this application form, filling it out, and returning it to Kelly Skeels, United Way of Portage County Community Services Program Specialist, at email@example.com or 1100 Centerpoint Drive, #302, Stevens Point, WI 54481.
Click here for a Learn for Life display poster.