For educators, the value of reading skills for students of all ages is well understood. It's part of a base knowledge that sets students up for success, or can hold them back if reading skills aren't well developed.
"Reading is a foundational skill for everything that they need to do to be college and career ready," Contann Dobney, principal at Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence in Buffalo, explained.
That focus on reading and literacy goes one step further at Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence, which is one of six Buffalo Public Schools that partners with Read to Succeed Buffalo.
These retirees spend about six hours every week tutoring students in @Buffalo_Schools. The volunteer program @RTSB_Buffalo is getting national attention from the @AARPFoundation for its success improving student reading levels! @WKBW pic.twitter.com/6DWVr7vwUk
— Josh Bazan (@JoshBazan) November 8, 2018
Read to Succeed is affiliated with the AARP Foundation Experience Corps. It trains retirees and places them in schools to tutor struggling students. The lessons are specifically designed to meet the needs of individual students and tutoring groups are kept small to help maximize the support volunteer tutors are able to provide.
"If they're in first grade or second grade or third grade, it's specific to the needs of those students and it's specific to what they're working on and supportive of what they're working on in the classroom," Executive Director of Read to Succeed, Anne Ryan, said.
The AARP Foundation ranks Read to Succeed Buffalo among the top programs in the country. Last year, 79 percent of students who were below grade level at the beginning of the year improved their reading and literacy by at least half a grade level.
"All of the children to work with me are anxious to come downstairs to work and learn," Dean Cattieu said. He's volunteered with Read to Succeed since it started three years ago. "That's the kind of atmosphere the Read to Succeed program fosters."
Cattieu is a retired civil engineer, although he calls this volunteer work "the greatest job I ever landed". For him, the small groups are key to help students get the attention they need.
"We really work together well that way," he said. "Their attentions are focused. I can see if they're wandering. I can re-track them."
Read to Succeed Buffalo has 51 volunteer tutors, along with dedicated program experts for each of the schools. It provides small group tutoring for 400 students at Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence, Waterfront Elementary, Southside Elementary, Early Childhood Center, Arthur O. Eve School and West Hertel Academy.
Read to Succeed Buffalo is also welcoming New York Times bestselling author Susan Verde to Waterfront Elementary Friday to promote the WNY Children's Book Expo. The expo is free for all ages and takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
To learn more about Read to Succeed Buffalo, including how to become a volunteer tutor, click here.