Young Prescott students get one-on-one help in reading, spelling
Rennie Anderson, a volunteer reading tutor at Miller Valley School in Prescott, urged Kannon Flores, a first grader, to tap out the vowel sound in the word he was working on Thursday morning.
"Up, up, up," Kannon said. "Uh, uh, uh."
Next Anderson asked Kannon to blend the letter sounds, then stretch it out, and finally make it sound like a word.
"Ss uh ch." Kannon said. "S uh ch. Such."
Anderson is one of many volunteers in this early intervention program who meet one-on-one with students for 25 minutes twice a week, said Karen Benson, a reading specialist at Miller Valley.
"What they're doing is wonderful. The children have shown great improvement on standardized tests in the past two years, and we can see the progress they're making," Principal Jeff Lane said.
Lane noted that budget cuts have meant that the school does not have enough staff to work individually with the students for an extended amount of time and that's why the volunteers are so important. The volunteer reading tutors help the students work their way through different levels of the Barton Reading and Spelling System, which was meant for students with dyslexia, but also helps those who don't transpose letters and sounds, Benson said.
Bella Reyes, a first grader, put a piece of paper with a window cut out of it over a row of words on the page so she could find the ones that matched without distractions. Then Bella used the tiles to spell and sound out the word "rig" under Benson's direction, then turn it into the word "rip."
Bella used the tiles to sound out a few nonsense words like lan and pim.
"Many words students don't know yet are like those nonsense words," Benson said. "They use the same strategies to sound them out as well."
Aranda Dutra, a second grader, finished her work with tutor Paula Burroughs a little early so she got to choose whether she wanted to play bingo with the sounds and words or read. She read a book that had her and Burroughs smiling.
"'In came the doctor. In came the nurse. In came the lady with the alligator purse,'" Aranda read aloud.
"I can see kids jumping rope to this," Burroughs said.
"'Penicillin,' said the doctor. 'Castor oil,' said the nurse. 'Ice cream,' said the lady with the alligator purse," said Aranda as she continued reading.
Afterward, Aranda said, "Bingo is a lot of fun, but I really like it when we get to read."
Grants from St. Luke's Episcopal Church, the Hassayampa Ladies Golf Association and Episcopal Community Services paid for the site license for the program, and a large number of volunteers came to the program from the Granite Creek Unitarian Church, Benson said.
Each volunteer tutor goes through five to six hours of training for each level they teach. Whenever questions come up, Benson said she gets quick answers from the program's creator, Susan Barton.
Benson said that Aranda often will come up to her and ask if she gets to meet with Miss Paula that day.
"Students benefit from the one-on-one approach educationally as well as socially," Benson said. "Our students enjoy their tutors who have an interest in them as a person."
Burroughs, who previously worked as a family counselor and ran the CASA for Kids program, said she heard about the program through her church and thought it was the perfect opportunity to work with children, especially since her grandchildren live far away.
"It's so fun working with the kids," Burroughs said. "I can see their progress as they work at their own pace, and their pride in their accomplishments."
For more information about the program, or to volunteer, call Benson at 928-717-3268.