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Spotlight of the Week

Reach Out - Teach a Child to Read

Aaron D. Mihalik

The MIT Public Service Center offers a number of different opportunities for students who are interested in community service activities. Teach a Child to Read is one of such programs.

Teach a Child to Read is the result of a nation wide effort to improve the reading ability of elementary school students. It is a rigorous program in comparison to other community service opportunities. At the beginning of the semester participants are required to attend three training sessions. After two training sessions, students are ready to begin tutoring elementary school children.

“In this program, everyone is matched up with specific children,” said Lauren Erb ’01, one of the Teach a Child to Read coordinators. The tutor and the elementary school student meet “twice a week, and they have a very structured program. It’s not like you tutor them with their homework or you help the teachers out... it’s very one-on-one.”

The minimum time commitment is “two hours a week [but] some people give as many hours as they can give,” said Erica Lee ’01, the other program coordinator. “It is an after school program... the children get out of school at 3 or 2:30 and they stay in this afterschool program till 5:30. It is not a very big block of time for people to work.”

Many of the tutors work with students at the Cambridge Community Center, but some of them work at the Hurley School and Kennedy School. “The Hurley school is unique,” said Lee. Classes are taught “in both English and Spanish because 70 percent of the kids there speak Spanish.”

Lee mentioned that this program is a good way to relieve the stress of classes and problem sets. During the tutorial sessions “you go there and these kids are your most important things for an hour of your time. It’s not like your work. It’s kids running around and you are trying to get them to read.”

“It’s hard to get down to business,” continued Lee. “You’re not supposed to be their friend; you’re supposed to be tutoring.”

Also, students who are eligible for Federal Work-Study funds can be paid for tutoring. “Part of the attraction of this program is that you can get paid,” said Erb.

Teach a Child to Read receives contributions from Harvard. “We are trying to get a partnership together with the Harvard School of Education,” said Erb. “A lot of the [tutoring] training comes from the Harvard Ed. school.”

Since most of the training sessions have been completed, it is too late to join this semester. However, Teach a Child to Read will be recruiting and holding more training in the spring.