KALAMAZOO, MI — Shirley Freeman was a tutor for Kalamazoo Public Schools when she and several friends from her church decided to take a training course through SLD Read, a nonprofit that works with struggling readers.
“We felt that we could be better and more efficient tutors if we had a ‘program' to follow and some training under our belts. None of us, including me, were professional educators,” Freeman said in a press release for SLD Read.
That was seven years ago. Freeman now tutors two students a year through SLD Read's Language Links volunteer program.
“I love being a SLD Read volunteer tutor. I enjoy the creative challenge and I especially enjoy seeing the children's progress in reading,” Freeman said.
And there has been some amazing progress: One boy went from being an unconfident, reluctant reader to devouring The Boxcar Children books. His mother sent a note at the end of the year which said in part: “His love for reading has also skyrocketed and that excites me very much. He looked forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays every week. I know he enjoyed spending time with you and the games you played. It created a great love for reading and a pure joy.”
Now SLD Read is seeking volunteers for tutor training courses that begin in Kalamazoo on Jan. 12 and in Grand Rapids on Feb. 16.
The 32-hour course, entitled Phonics Fundamentals, includes lecture, lesson demonstrations and hands-on practice of phonological awareness activities, multisensory techniques, structured language patterns and rules of the English Language.
SLD Read's curriculum is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, which is described as a highly effective program for struggling learners of all ages with dyslexia or other learning differences that focuses on reading, writing and spelling and is a nationally accredited program through the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council and the International Dyslexia Association, the press release said.
SLD Read also has a team of paid tutors, offering services on a sliding scale and, in some cases, scholarships for qualified students. Through the training, tutors are provided the materials and lessons they need for working with their students.
“We've been tutoring in our community since 1974,” says Carol McGlinn, the executive director of SLD Read of Kalamazoo, “It is not traditional tutoring in the sense of helping with homework. Our tutors are specifically focused on teaching reading, writing and spelling.”
Volunteer tutors who sign up should be “passionate about reading and working with struggling readers,” the press release said.