Experience Corps Works with Retired Community Members to Improve Literacy

Tempe, AZ | Submitted by Christine Busch

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For more than a decade, the city of Tempe and Tempe Elementary School District have leveraged the knowledge, caring and life experience of local retirees to help students improve reading and comprehension skills. Experience Corps is a partnership program where retired community members are paired with kindergarten through third grade students. There are now more than 80 volunteers working in 10 Tempe elementary schools. This year, they’ll reach more than 350 students, but over the life of the program they’ve impacted thousands more.

After volunteers undergo thorough training from a reading specialist, who shares reading and positive reinforcement strategies, they’re paired with four students who they’ll mentor individually for the duration of the school year.

Students are thrilled to be partnered with an Experience Corps volunteer to work together twice each week. The tutors meet a great need for additional support in the schools while the program taps into the experience and passion of retired community members to ensure that every child has a chance to succeed in school and in life.

Experience Corps is making a difference in student achievement. Last year, teachers reported that of the students who started the year behind, 84 percent increased their reading and literacy skill level by at least half a grade level. And what’s more, three out of four students involved in the program reached appropriate benchmarks on DIBELS testing. And the one-on-one tutoring doesn’t just help with reading skills, teacher ratings for traits like motivation and concentration improve in nearly all students as the year progresses. The students become so connected with their tutor and are motivated to improve in their reading with the help of their tutor.

Experience Corps volunteers continue to receive rave reviews from principals, students and families who have watched student achievement increase soon after retirees enter their schools. The Experience Corp volunteers are passionate and dedicated. The volunteer/tutor becomes the child’s champion in learning and in life!

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