Reading Corps tutor helps elementary students succeed

COM_MN reading corpsDeAnn Devine is the Minnesota Reading Corps tutor in Scandia.

Through a program funded by the federal AmeriCorps program, she spends 20 minutes per day, one-on-one, with each child who qualifies.

Three times a year, students in kindergarten through third grade are tested to see if they need tutoring.

Each grade has a benchmark score, which changes for fall, winter, and spring testings. About 35 percent of students qualify.

Those who do receive reading interventions. Kindergarten students work on letter names and sounds, first graders on blending sounds to make words, second and third graders on comprehension.

Students in the program are assessed weekly to monitor their progress. When tests show their reading has improved to a certain level, they leave the program.

Usually, Devine said, this takes more than six weeks. And during that time, the students gain more than just a reading tutor.

“There are no distractions in this room,” Devine said. “I’m probably the first one in the school to hear their dog died, or they’re not feeling well. They learn to trust me.”

Devine said the one-on-one time students get in her room helps build their confidence. “Shy kids come in, and I watch their confidence grow.”

Scandia Elementary has had the Reading Corps program for three years, Devine said. Principal Julie Greiman applies for the grant. Reading Corps recruits the tutors and trains them. Then the tutors interview with the school, and the school chooses a tutor.

Devine’s background includes a degree in early childhood development and experience as a preschool teacher. She is paid a stipend every two weeks.

She also serves as the PTO’s volunteer coordinator, organizing the parents who donate their time to help in the classroom and to work at the Wild Walk, Carnival, Art & Academic Fair and Fun Run.

Studies show one in five third graders are not reading at grade level. The research-based Minnesota Reading Corps initiative, designed to help every Minnesota child become a successful reader by the end of third grade, has been highly successful. Of third-graders who complete the Minnesota Reading Corps program, 80 percent pass the statewide reading exam. This matches Minnesota’s overall pass rate.

Research shows that when students get off to a poor start academically, they rarely catch up. The 2011 Hernandez study, for example, noted that students who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school.

Literacy research suggests that 95 percent of all children have the capacity to learn to read proficiently if effective interventions are provided. Anyone interested in making a difference in the lives of struggling students is urged to consider becoming a tutor. To learn more, visit or contact 866-859-2825.

Minnesota Math Corps is also available to help students struggling with arithmetic, but schools must pay for this program.