Lifesavers for Reading dedicated to their mission
Published 9:30 am Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Lifesavers for Reading in Southampton County Public Schools is intended to do more than just rescue K-3 level students from their individual struggles to read or even to raise grades.
“It’s self-esteem we’re building. You can’t measure that by test scores,” said Betty Mann, program coordinator for all four elementary schools. “It’s amazing how much improvement we’ve seen in the students through the one-on-one tutoring.”
The ‘we’ to whom she refers are the tutors. Based on a “Book Buddy” project created by Charlottesville Public Schools and the University of Virginia, the Lifesavers program uses volunteers to help students with their reading skills. Locally, the project has been around for about 14 years.
County-wide, the youngsters are picked based on their scores from the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening and chosen by their reading specialists.
Mann said she wants to emphasize that the screening is “not really a test, but a diagnostic tool.”
There are about 40 tutors, she said, adding with a smile, “I want more.”
The initial training lasts from two to three hours, but it’s continued as needed through the school year for back-up or fine-tuning.
When they sit down to read with their students for 35 to 40 minutes, the tutors each have a lesson plan that can include phonetics and writing.
“I’m big on writing,” Mann said. “Children don’t write enough.”
For herself, the project isn’t just a job, it’s a passion.
“I consider this mission work,” she said. “I get out of it a joy.”
In addition to being nourished by the purpose, Mann is encouraged by the administration as well as the tutors’ commitment to the students.
“They know what to do. They get in and out because their time is valuable,” she said. “They reap more than what they sow working with children.”
Although the volunteers receive some acclaim at a year-end banquet, they also are in it for the love of helping children to read.
“They’re not here for recognition and don’t expect kudos,” Mann added.
One of the tutors is Carolyn Lowe of Sedley, now in her third year of helping. She read about the program online and said, “I just wanted to help.”
“I have three grown children who came up through Southampton schools,” Lowe added. “The reading process is so different. We break down words and do word studies and blends. It’s just so different.”
Retired as nurse from the former Windsor Middle School, Lowe dedicates about one hour a week to tutoring, but would like to increase that amount this year.
The motivation/reward for what she does is intangible, but quite fulfilling.
“Seeing the light bulb go off when they read an entire book, and knowing that I’m helping them,” Lowe said.
To find out how to volunteer for Lifesavers, contact Mann at 562-3007.