Wednesday, 04 August 2021

United Way ‘Schools of Hope’ reading program helps students make huge improvements

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – Kelseyville Elementary School second graders who were several months behind in reading will start third grade all caught up thanks to one-on-one tutoring they received through the Schools of Hope Reading Program funded by United Way of the Wine Country.

Long-time Kelseyville Elementary teacher Toni Brown, who coordinates the program at the elementary school and supervises the volunteers, says the research-based program has provided exceptional results.

“Eight of the 10 students identified for the program in fall were at reading level by January, so we exchanged those students for eight more who were struggling in January and by spring, again, eight of the ten students in the program had made up their deficits and were reading at grade level. The two students who stayed in the program all year tested the highest of all the participants,” she said.

Reading at grade level by third grade is important because this period marks the shift between learning to read and reading to learn.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report titled, “Early Warning! Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters,” shows that grade-level reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a key predictor of high school graduation.

In fact, the foundation says, “The ability to read by third grade is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security.”

Providing students with the extra help they need in kindergarten through second grade allows them to achieve mastery of the most essential reading skills in third grade, so when program coordinator Joan Reynolds approached Kelseyville Unified School District and offered the service, Superintendent Dave McQueen jumped at the chance.

Kelseyville Unified just finished its fourth year participating in the Schools of Hope program and the collaboration has been so successful, they plan to continue the program for the 2019-20 school year.

Brown credits the program’s success to the excellent curriculum, the supportive second-grade teaching staff, and the dedicated, high-quality volunteers, most of whom are retired teachers who have been with the programs since its inception at Kelseyville Unified.

Based on whether students are in kindergarten, first or second grade, the curriculum reviews phonemic awareness (sounds), phonics (associating sounds with letters), high-frequency words, fluency, and comprehension. Students meet with their tutor twice a week for 30 minutes in a structured environment that reinforces these basic skills.

Tutors include Lynn Andre, Mary Borjon, Bev Bresso, Ashlyn Hansen, Julie Hernaez, Kim Olson, Janice Pilcher, Gail Robello, Kim Shay, Cindy Wilson, and Kathy Windrem. Schools of Hope works with North Coast Opportunities to identify volunteers for the program.

North Coast Opportunities confirms background checks, fingerprinting and tuberculosis screening to keep the students safe.

Brown said the tutors are incredibly caring, generous people. As an example, when a fourth-grade student who was in the program as a second grader saw her former tutor, Cindy, on campus, she asked Brown if she could read with Cindy again.

Brown explained that tutoring was for second graders, but when Cindy learned of the request, she started coming ten minutes early with special books checked of the library so she could read with the fourth grader, too.

Although Kelseyville Elementary has enough tutors for the 2019-20 school year, volunteers interested in expanding the program to Riviera Elementary School should contact Joan Reynolds for more information.

Reynolds can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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