The Read-On Phoenix program with AARP has lost approximately 100 tutors due to the pandemic. Tutors partner with students to help them reach their reading level.

PHOENIX — There are thousands of K-3 students in Phoenix reading below grade level, said Tim Valencia, the city’s director of youth and education.

So during Children’s book weekThe nation’s oldest national literacy initiative, a vital program calls on the Valley’s help to develop proficient readers.

the Phoenix Reading Program with AARP desperately needs more volunteers to help as many students reach their necessary reading level. The program is down about 100 tutors due to the pandemic.

The program connects trained volunteer tutors, ages 50 and older, through the AARP Foundation and the City of Phoenix. Tutors help children become proficient readers by the time they complete third grade.

“Before the pandemic, we were reaching 150 and 160 volunteers, so we really want to recruit as many volunteers as possible to serve as many students in Phoenix,” Valencia said. “Because 13,000 students are not reading at grade level and we need to do something about that.”

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The City of Phoenix said there is a problem with students reading below grade level in the community.

Due to the need, they are looking for volunteers to come to the schools and bring them to third grade reading level. Valencia added that the age group is at a pivotal time for student achievement.

Prior to the pandemic, the city saw a more than 90% increase in the reading level of the approximately 600 children participating in this program each year. The program is currently offered at five schools in the Phoenix area. The goal is to triple that number to 15 schools by August.

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Volunteers must be available to tutor students twice a week during the school year and be 50 years of age or older. There are also summer programs that need volunteers. Phoenix provides all training and takes safety precautions during in-school tutoring times.

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