Faculty, Students, Community Join to Break Through Children's Literacy with Tutoring, Mentoring

Two Notre Dame College professional education faculty members have determined nearly one-third of the kindergarten through third-grade students in Cleveland area schools are at risk of failing the third-grade state reading exam.

That is why Sue E. Corbin, Ph.D., accreditation chair, division of professional education, and Lynne M. Shields, Ph.D., assistant professor of professional education, are now in the third semester of leading a tutoring and mentoring program called Project Brainstorm. The educators have paired Notre Dame student volunteers with second- and fourth-graders at Cleveland’s Case Elementary School, which has been designated as a Cleveland investment school, one of the lowest performing in the district.Community Join to Break Through Children's Literacy with Tutoring, Mentoring

“It is critical to reach out to these students and help broaden their horizons,” Corbin said. “People without good literacy do not have good choices.”

This semester, the College nearly doubled the number of children receiving one-on-one tutoring and mentoring to 23 and has extended the program from six to 14 weeks. The Notre Dame students, who represent more than just education majors, spend about an hour with the same child each week at the elementary school.

“This experience is so important for our students in a lot of different ways. The ability to help someone, to become important to a child is life-changing for both the Case Elementary students and for the Notre Dame College students,” Corbin said.

The Power of Personal Connection Corbin and Shields have conducted a qualitative study of these growing literacy sessions. Early results indicate a rise in more than just the elementary students’ reading skills.

Following the first semester of this Project Brainstorm community-based service learning program, all of the Case Elementary children involved said they felt they improved their reading skills, which positively affected their self-esteem. The Notre Dame volunteers also noted improvements in the children’s skills from literacy session to literacy session.

Additionally, the elementary mentees reported working with mentors helped them progress, and the College students disclosed they felt good about helping the children improve their reading skills.

“The connection, the mentormentee relationship is key,” Shields said. “When our students make that connection with the children, you can see it on all their faces. The children are learning, and the mentors are helping.”

The Power of the Printed Word Shields and Corbin have partnered the College with the Rainey Institute of Cleveland after-school enrichment program and Scholastic Inc. books and educational programs to assist Case Elementary children not just in passing the state exam.

According to Corbin, children transition from learning to read to reading to learn around third-grade. Without adequate literacy skills, the children will be unable to accomplish the more, and the more independent, reading required and the less reading instruction provided them as they progress through school.

“You really can’t do anything without reading,” Corbin said. “We want to encourage these students to become lifelong readers.

” To complement the Project Brainstorm mentoring and tutoring, Notre Dame has launched a campus- wide literacy project to collect new and gently used print books for children in kindergarten to eighth grade. The books will be gifted to students at Case Elementary.

“A lot of these students do not have books at home or parents available to read to them, and many cannot get to a library,” Corbin said. “We would like to give each child a book to take home, something of their own. A story is so important to human beings.”

“Because a book can take you anywhere,” Shields added.

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