IUP students are helping community children with reading skills through the KidsRead literacy program.
The local program, which serves more than one hundred elementary school students from the Indiana area, is based at the Indiana Free Library in downtown Indiana.
KidsRead is based on the national America Reads movement, a federal initiative that sponsors college students to serve as reading tutors for at-risk children in the local community.
Vanessa E. Gregorakis coordinates the KidsRead program as a partnership among IUP, the Indiana Free Library, and the Indiana Area School District. Gregorakis is with IUP as a representative of the AmeriCorps federal service program.
KidsRead is also an initiative of the Office of Service Learning, which promotes student involvement within in the Indiana community, linking students and nonprofit agencies.
“Students of all majors volunteer as tutors, ranging from education to music,” Gregorakis said. “The Office of Service Learning recruits volunteers for many community needs, and KidsRead is one of them.”
KidsRead tutors work with kindergarten through fourth-grade students in the Indiana area mainly to improve reading skills, but writing skills are equally important.
“Typically, as many as seventy-five IUP students volunteer for the four sessions held each week during the Fall and Spring semesters,” said Gregorakis.
After each student volunteer obtains the necessary clearances and undergoes training and supervision from the AmeriCorps representative, the volunteer is paired with a child. The KidsRead program relies on consistency with tutors and their children, so they meet at the same time every week throughout the semester at the Indiana Free Library.
“The program serves as a learning experience for both the tutor and child,” Gregorakis said.
Activities are one-on-one between the child and the student volunteer, and sessions are built around what the student wants to read or needs to read for a school assignment.
“If students like to do any ‘above and beyond’ type of planning, it is both welcomed and appreciated by myself as well as the children and their parents,” Gregorakis said.