Helping young students find the joy of reading -- that is the mission of Reading Partners North Texas.
Leaders with the organization say it’s not about how much a student doesn’t know, but rather understanding where that student is in their learning journey and getting them to where they need to be.
“The first sign of struggling learners is avoidance. I don’t want to do things I am not good at, either,” said Kimberly Benavides, Executive Director of Reading Partners North Texas. “That’s just human nature. So, we don’t want to punish students when they are avoiding reading, but we want to continue to push them and encourage them because we know with practice comes success.”
The North Texas arm of the national organization has seen that success with 19 reading centers across Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD. The nonprofit served 667 students in the 2019-2020 school year with some 822 volunteers making it possible.
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Volunteers like Tarun Swaminathan of AmeriCorps.
“I think the beauty of the one-on-one model [that Reading Partners has] is that we went at their pace. So in the one-on-one setter, we see where kids are at and where they need to be. It’s not as easy to adjust for that with a classroom. So that’s why this works,” Swaminathan said. “The kids can also go at their own pace getting that individual attention that they love.”
He also said parents should not feel discouraged when it comes to virtual learning, because even that can be successful.
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“It is possible for kids to learn there. It just must be supplemented with reinforcement at home. For us, it's through Reading Partners North Texas.”
Volunteers are 14 and up and are given all the tools to help young learners succeed. There is no previous teaching experience required.
“One of our Dallas ISD principals said it perfectly. She said that when you have a relationship with a child, they will ride for you and that’s what Reading Partners does. Students have an adult who they want to work for. Fist bumps are free and that’s the best kind of prize. Someone who is proud of your progress,” Benavides said.
Reading Partners North Texas is always looking for volunteers to help continue the work they have done so far in the North Texas community.