Are you ready for the campus job that will change your life?
CEHD America Reads is a program that allows college students to mentor elementary school students (ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade) by helping them build their reading skills. Literary mentors meet students on site several times a week to help them with everything from their reading skills to their homework. On the surface, the program sounds like the perfect resume-builder for anyone interested in teaching or children, but that is only the very beginning.
America Reads works with several sites throughout the Twin Cities area, each offering different programs for students. Mentors visit their sites two or three times a week depending on their schedules. Each literacy mentor’s experience is different– some meet students during their school days; some help at after school programs; some mentors only work with students on reading; some attend programs that include everything from gym time to making meals.
The CEHD America Reads program comes with job training in the form of a semester-long class. Tutors are enrolled in a EDHD 1920, CEHD Special Topics, a class which meets four times a semester. This one-credit course covers everything from different reading techniques, how to engage students in the material, what to expect during site visits, the value of literacy, and more.
Professor Eva Boehm warmly greeted her class as they met for the third of four sessions. The classroom of mentors sat in desks surrounding Boehm as she began class with an enthusiastic reading of Leo Tolstoy’s Three Questions. As Boehm read, she encouraged mentors to apply the message of the book to their experiences as literacy mentors. The story- which focused on the importance of doing good for the people you surround yourself with- allowed mentors to reflect on their site visits and the children they work with.
After she finished reading and the mentors moved on to a reflection essay, Boehm discussed the importance of the America Reads program.
“We can’t put enough resources in education. I personally believe this is the best work study job on campus,” Boehm said. “These are college students going in and giving so many of these kiddos at these sites a nugget of hope. They are needed.”
And it was visible just how much the students gained from the interaction with mentors by a visit to East Side Neighborhood Service’s Mulberry Junction, one of nineteen different sites mentors work at.
One mentor, a sophomore English major named Ellen, was shelving books as she waited for students to arrive from school. Ellen, who plans to be a high school English teacher, said she was looking for a job when she stumbled upon the application for America Reads.
For Ellen, the program has proven to be much more than just a job; it has taught her teaching skills and given her a sense of just how rewarding working with children can be.
“As soon as you get here you can tell that your job is important,” Ellen said. “I would do it for free.”
Soon after, students began filling the room and the program began. Mulberry Junction’s program offered more than just reading time– students also got a chance to work on their homework with a mentor, and the choice between helping prepare a snack or playing capture the flag outside.
Students inside divided the tasks of making a salad: some groups baked croutons, other sliced peppers, one pulled apart lettuce, and one more stirred a homemade ranch dressing. When it was time to eat, the group from outside came to join in the snacking. As the students ate, their instructor discussed the ways that they could be respectful to each other. As the students discussed how they could be good friends to one another, snack time came to an end. It was finally time for some reading.
Throughout the program, mentors learn to gauge their mentee’s reading level. During their class section, Professor Boehm had mentors practice reading styles on each other with an excerpt of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The mentors rehearsed choral reading, partner reading, and other exercises with a partner. These same exercises were then applied in the classroom with the students. While some students were comfortable reading on their own, others needed help along the way.
Students divided into groups based on their age and left for different parts of the building. During reading time, students could either get help with their homework or practice reading. Many students opted for reading, pulling out books by Dr. Suess and other popular children’s authors. Some students chose to read, others chose to be read to, but regardless of their choice, every student seemed to appreciate the opportunity to enjoy a book at the end of a long day.
As the program came to an end, students said goodbye to their mentors with hugs and questions of when they would see each other next. Being a mentor seemed to take college students out of their daily routine and into a place where their passion and knowledge was appreciated by everyone they came into contact with. After observing a day of mentoring, it was hard to tell who learned and benefited more from the program– the mentors or the students.
For more information about CEHD America Reads and how to apply, click here!