In Fall 2015, Starting Strong developed its Reading Partners program at Ocean Avenue School in Portland. In this program, first-grade students who need extra reading support are matched with skilled volunteers to receive approximately 25 minutes of tutoring twice a week. Specifically, volunteers engage students in activities to support the literacy process, including sight word recognition, fluency practice, and comprehension.
Research shows that well designed one-to-one reading instruction contributes to improved performance for students who struggle to read. Starting Strong Reading Partners incorporates evidence-based elements from across the country, including:
- Tutors trained by reading specialists
- Program schedule sufficient to produce results
- 1:1 or small group ratio
- Regular attendance of tutors and students
- Intensive and consistent (a child should be tutored by the same tutor every week)
Starting Strong’s first Reading Partners cohort included 25 students, 13 of whom were learning English. 78% of participating students met or exceeded spring literacy benchmarks as assessed by the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Reading Assessment. Today, Starting Strong and Portland Public Schools have expanded the Reading Partners program to Lyseth Elementary School.
Starting Strong believes that by working with community volunteers to deliver intentional, individualized literacy support programs, like Reading Partners, all Portland third graders will read at or above grade level.