Elon students make impact in local schools through America Reads Program

Elon 's Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement is a proud partner in America Reads, a national initiative established in 1996 by President Bill Clinton designed to ensure that every child can read independently by the end of third grade. 

By Kristin Moore '19

Through the America Reads program, Elon students are making a difference in the lives of local students that goes beyond just reading words on a page. These Elon tutors work with students in local elementary schools and afterschool programs to instill in them a love for learning that will serve them throughout their lives. 

Education is a powerful force for promoting opportunity and growth. A person’s education is a determinant of outcomes such as income, higher education, and much more. Providing learning opportunities, support, and mentorship for children is extremely important.

Elon's America Reads partnership is housed in the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement and is part of a nationwide initiative designed to employ college students as reading and math tutors to help ensure that all children have a solid foundation in reading and math skills. These goals are achieved by connecting Elon students with teachers and educators in local elementary schools and afterschool programs in Alamance County.

The America Reads program at Elon University offers tutoring and mentoring programs staffed by students receiving financial aid and who are eligible for Federal Work-Study. The program includes students from different majors and backgrounds with the common goal to positively impact students by teaching them life-long learning skills.

“Most of the America Reads tutors are not education majors so we rely on our amazing partnership with the Elon School of Education and other faculty and staff to provide training for our tutors three to four times each semester,” said America Reads coordinator Amanda Corso '19. “Tutors primarily focus on literacy activities and engage individual students or small groups of students with writing, reading, and listening activities as well as mathematics lessons and support.”

Currently, about 40 Elon students participate as America Reads tutors at five schools and three after-school programs. Tutors work individually and with small groups of students on mastering reading and math skills, and serve as classroom assistants. An America Reads tutor can serve four to 10 hours per week. The program has three student coordinators who oversee the America Reads program.

“I decided to apply for one of the coordinator positions because I loved my time with the students, but I recognized that my skills may be better used to help run the program,” said Corso. “Being one of the coordinators of the America Reads program has been so rewarding because we get to support and do all of the work behind the scenes to get all of our tutors out into the community and watch them do incredible work."

Tutors are expected to impart a general “love for learning” in students to encourage them to pursue higher education opportunities. This is achieved through working one-on-one or in small groups (no more than five) in order to most efficiently cement reading and math concepts for them.

“As a teacher, it can be hard to try and meet the needs of every student’s learning styles. While some students learn basic math and reading skills immediately, it can take others longer to develop these skills. This usually results in students falling behind,” said a kindergarten teacher at Highland Elementary. “The America Reads program has been so rewarding for my students because it gives them a chance to have one-on-one learning and develop friendships with college students.”

Most America Reads tutors say it’s a rewarding experience that allows Elon students the opportunity to help others and engage with people in Alamance County.

“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from students saying that the America Reads program has helped them burst the 'Elon Bubble' and realize the role they can play in addressing social issues in our surrounding community,” said America Reads coordinator Hannah Cheyney '20. “The fact that we are facilitating this experience and seeing tutors go into these schools and afterschool programs and actually making a difference makes me feel really good about the work the America Reads program is doing."