“The ONE TO ONE volunteer reading tutor program builds excitement around reading and books, and the students just love it,” said Wendie Jensen, librarian at Port Hardy’s Eagle View Elementary School (EVES) and school coordinator of the program.

EVES is one of only 25 schools in BC running the ONE TO ONE program virtually for the first time – compared to 197 BC schools that participated in the in-person program in 2019.

Across the province, extra support in the form of in-person reading tutoring has been stalled by pandemic restrictions that prevent visitors at schools.

“That ONE TO ONE and the Mount Waddington Family Literacy Society (MWFLS) have been able to make this work virtually is truly amazing. Of course, face-to-face is the ideal, but this works incredibly well. It is very easy to navigate the technology piece – anybody could do it.”

Alistair Nagle, program manager at the ONE TO ONE head office in Vancouver, says the significant drop in participation was not just a technology issue but also a coordination issue, as schools and teachers juggle new responsibilities, teaching formats and pressures. Locally, Leslie Dyck, literacy outreach coordinator for the MWFLS, helped EVES get started, provided training for tutors to learn the technology and got creative in sourcing tutors.

“Leslie was key to getting the program going virtually in Port Hardy,” says Alistair. “Her persistence and perseverance to do the outreach and the training – she just stuck with it.”

“I know that tutoring programs can make a real difference to a child’s future,” says Leslie. “I’m excited to say that we now have about 23 students getting extra reading support at EVES.”

Finding tutors hasn’t been easy. Many previous tutors were deterred by the technology.

One solution was to enlist North Island College Education Assistant student Rochelle Perrott to tutor 19 students per week during her practicum placement – a standout statistic for one tutor, according to ONE TO ONE.

And one previous tutor learned to do virtual tutoring and is working with four students per week.

A student and tutor work together virtually in the ONE TO ONE reading tutor program.
Danae Dornan volunteers as a virtual ONE TO ONE reading tutor with students at Eagle View Elementary School in Port Hardy. Photo by Kyle Dornan.

A tutor’s story

Danae Dornan has been a volunteer ONE TO ONE reading tutor with Grade One students at EVES since Fall 2019. She loved working with the children, saw the results that tutoring produced and was motivated to continue tutoring virtually.

“I have sort of a dream… I would love to see every single child leave Grade One knowing how to read at their level,” she said.

Now she meets once a week with four students for 30 minutes each, through Zoom – an online video platform, using Epic! Online books.

“The kids love it and are super-interested and focused! I think they like it because they get that one-on-one attention. They get to wear headphones too, which is pretty cool for them.”

Allowing students to make their own book choice helps keep their interest. “I try to find four or five books that are tailored to each child’s interest. Then I let them choose the book. There’s a huge variety of books on Epic!, so it’s easy to find books at their reading level.”

Danae says a key to success of the ONE TO ONE program, and to reading in general, is consistency.

“I know that if I keep reading with each child, I’m going to see their growth and that lightbulb moment. I definitely know that I saw a huge improvement in the students’ reading last year. We just have to get to that certain point – and then it just clicks!”

A parent herself, Danae knows the temptation to jump in to help or correct a child who gets stuck on a word.

“Give them the time to work it out for themselves. Give it at least 10 seconds. Then give clues or ask questions, like ‘are there any clues in the picture?’ or have them read the whole sentence again.”

A parent’s story

Port Hardy youth and family counsellor Christine Swain says her ten-year-old daughter had struggled with reading since first grade. In May, she enrolled her daughter in ONE TO ONE’s 8-week virtual spring reading program. The Grade 4 student spent 30 minutes a week working with a volunteer tutor online and the results have been dramatic.

“For the first time in her school career she has caught up with her class and is at reading level. She has increased confidence, is reading aloud in class and actually looks forward to it. It’s a big change.”

And although her daughter was nervous about meeting a stranger – even virtually – tutor and student quickly made a connection.

“She has fun and she feels comfortable with her tutor. She has opened up and they have built a relationship. I can trust that my daughter is in good hands.”

Parent reading workshops

ONE TO ONE is holding one-hour Come Read With Me workshops designed to give parents positive and effective strategies to support their child when reading at home, on June 10 or 15th at 6:30 pm. See their Facebook page @one2oneliteracy for details or register at: https://www.eventbrite.ca/o/one-to-one-literacy-society-32436852611

The MWFLS is also planning a virtual parent workshop in June to help parents prevent summer learning loss. Visit the website mwliteracynow.wordpress.com or follow the @mwfamilyliteracy Facebook page for updates.

Volunteers needed in September

Next year, Leslie hopes to get more schools, students and volunteers involved in the ONE TO ONE reading tutoring, whether in person or virtually.

“We certainly hope that in September we can get back to in-person tutoring but we are grateful there are alternatives,” says Leslie. “I’d love to see volunteers in all of our communities and have the ONE TO ONE program at all of our schools.”

Wendie at EVES says, “I’m incredibly thankful that there are people outside of the school community that are willing to support the school and the students because it takes a community to raise a reader!”

Interested in becoming a ONE TO ONE volunteer reading tutor in September?
Contact Leslie Dyck at mwfamilyliteracy@gmail.com

by Trish Weatherall. Published in the North Island Eagle, May 28, 2021

Read more Impact Stories about the Mount Waddington Family Literacy Society in North Island Communities.

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