Good Samaritan Readers
Good Samaritan Readers
Posted on 04/04/2019

First grader Sophie Shea has an enormous smile as she walks into the library at Woodland Elementary. When she makes eye contact with her tutor, Michelle Mortimer, her excitement grows, and she instantly runs over to give her a big hug. It is only aSophie with her drawing second of silence before Sophie enthusiastically begins to tell Ms. Mortimer all about her morning in great detail. She then states that after reading all the words she is going to draw a puppy for Mortimer. Sophia said, “I’m really good at drawing puppies. It will even look like a puppy too!” Mortimer embraces Sophie’s energy with laughter and a warm smile bigger then Sophie’s. It is obvious both Sophia and Mortimer enjoy their friendship and look forward to seeing each other every week.

Volunteers meet weekly to tutor students in reading in several elementary schools across the district. The program is called the Good Samaritan Readers and is coordinated by Communities In Schools (CIS) Puyallup. It was implemented in the Puyallup School District 17 years ago. 

The program pairs selected first, second, and third graders with an adult tutor for one-on-one reading mentoring. The volunteers join the students once a week for 45 minutes where they assist with reading books and sight words, practice writing skills, review classroom reading assignments, and focus on activities that increase letter and sound skills. The volunteers meet with the same student throughout the school year, creating a meaningful partnership.

"In addition to improving the students’ reading scores and encouraging a higher interest and engagement in reading, we know that the weekly connection with their adult tutor allows a positive developmental relationship to be formed that, in turn, improves social and communication skills. This relationship helps students see and realize their full potential and the opportunity is certainly fun and encouraging for both the students and the volunteer tutors," commented Executive Director Communities In Schools of Puyallup Jan Mauk.

Boy reading with tutorWhen asked if she likes reading with Ms. Mortimer, Sophia said “Yes!  I can spell cheese now….C H E E S E and  I can read dinosaur!”

Why the focus on primary grades? Third grade has been identified as important to reading literacy because it is the final year children are “learning to read”, after which students are “reading to learn”. Students who are not reading at grade level by third grade are commonly identified as being in academic crisis. Without effective intervention, students will continue to struggle through school and are most at risk to drop out of school.

Retired teacher Kathy Franz knew she wanted to get involved in tutoring reading. “I love reading myself and hope to share that enthusiasm, but more importantly, success in every subject is dependent on reading skills. Students who can’t read have an increased chance of not being successful in school. Plus, working with the students is fun and rewarding,” said Franz.

Student and tutor smilingThe program operates with approximately 90 volunteers.

A good amount of the volunteers tutor more than one student, devoting two or three hours a week.

Good Samaritan Readers began at Stewart Elementary in 2002 with just 22 students. The program is now at Firgrove, Karshner, Pope, Sunrise, Stewart, and Woodland elementary schools serving an average of 140 students.

For additional information on the Good Samaritan Readers or if you would like to volunteer, visit Communities In Schools Puyallup.

Anne Martin