The Massachusetts Reading Corps, a replication of the Minnesota Reading Corps model, places AmeriCorps literacy tutors in public and private PreK classrooms in Springfield, Mass., where they implement whole-group, small-group, and one-on-one literacy interventions targeting the “Big 5” language and literacy skill areas: oral language, vocabulary and meaning, concepts about books and print, phonological awareness, and alphabetic principle. Using research-based assessments, literacy tutors collect data on children’s literacy skills and use it to make informed decisions about the types of literacy support each child and each classroom needs.
So what exactly is a literacy tutor?
Literacy tutors receive rigorous, ongoing training focused not only on literacy instruction and assessment but also on providing socially, emotionally, and developmentally appropriate support to children ages three to five. They are trained to interact with children in a positive, sensitive, and encouraging way that allows them to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities. Tutors also receive support from an on-site internal literacy coach, a master literacy coach, and the AmeriCorps program staff members, all of whom provide member development and ensure fidelity to the Reading Corps model.
A Day in the Life of a Literacy Tutor
Children need to be successful readers, and by focusing on the emergent literacy skills, providing rigorous training and ongoing coaching, and ensuring that the literacy tutors are sensitive to the developmental and emotional needs of children, the Massachusetts Reading Corps is able to help all children enter kindergarten ready to learn how to read.
The Massachusetts Reading Corps is sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Service Alliance, MassMutual, Springfield College, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, Springfield Public Schools, Wells Fargo, Square One, Head Start, and the YMCA of Greater Springfield.
Minnesota Reading Corps launched in Minnesota in 2003, serving preschool children in four Head Start agencies. The early results showed the model was effective, and the program quickly expanded to serve children as young as three years old up to third graders in many more locations throughout the state. Minnesota Reading Corps has grown each year to become the largest state AmeriCorps program in the country. There are more than 1,000 Minnesota Reading Corps tutors currently serving in 500 Head Start centers, preschools, and elementary schools throughout Minnesota.
The goal of the Minnesota Reading Corps is to help every child become a successful reader by the end of 3rd grade. The program places AmeriCorps members as literacy tutors to implement a researched-based early literacy effort to help struggling readers. The Minnesota Reading Corps strategies are designed for both preschool-aged children and K–3rd grade students. Minnesota Reading Corps Preschool literacy tutors work with preschool-aged children in their classrooms to create literacy-rich environments, focusing on the “Big Five” emergent literacy skills. Data is regularly collected for each child in order to tailor literacy interventions for individual children, children in small groups, and for whole classrooms.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “The Nation’s Report Card,” showed in 2011 that only 34 percent of fourth graders read at a “proficient” level. Thus, two-thirds of students did not finish third grade with these essential reading skills. Research shows that students not reading proficiently by grade three are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school.
Reading Corps has the power to change the academic trajectory of struggling readers. It blends the power of AmeriCorps with the science of how children learn to read. In 2011, 80 percent of third grade Reading Corps participants passed the statewide reading assessment, compared to 78 percent for all Minnesota students. In fact, the program was featured as a Bright Spot by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
According to results from the statewide reading assessment (MCAS) in Massachusetts, more than 60 percent of children in Springfield are unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade. Research shows that children who cannot read proficiently by this crucial stage are much less likely to graduate from high school.
With this in mind, the AmeriCorps staff at Springfield College began collaborating with local literacy champions to find solutions to this problem, and what they found was the Minnesota Reading Corps, a program with a ten-year proven track record in helping children gain the early literacy skills needed to become proficient readers, beginning in PreK.
With training and technical assistance from ServeMinnesota and additional funding from Springfield’s Funder Collaborative for Reading Success, MassMutual, Wells Fargo, and the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, Springfield College launched a replication of the Minnesota Reading Corps PreK model in 2012 with 12 literacy tutors placed at the Mason Square Head Start, Square One, and Margaret C. Ells Elementary School.
Massachusetts Reading Corps Service Sites
- Edward P. Boland School (Elementary)
- Elias Brookings School (Elementary)
- Margaret C. Ells School (Elementary)
- Head Start
- Square One
- YMCA of Greater Springfield