In 2001, the Augustine Literacy Project in Winston-Salem trained its first five tutors with aims to improve the reading, writing and spelling abilities of low-income children struggling with literacy skills. Fifteen years later, the project has expanded its mission, added to its name and grown, serving more than 160 students in 35 locations.
“Until 2015, we were known as the Augustine Literacy Project®,” said Henri Brown, director of READWS. “Our mission—training and supporting volunteer tutors to work one-to-one with low-income children with reading problems—was limited, but the impact was significant. In 2015, our Board expanded its mission and created a new overarching entity—READWS—that added new strategic components to serve struggling readers. READWS continues to grow its Augustine Literacy Project program while launching new initiatives. All components are based on a multi-sensory, structured literacy approach (Orton-Gillingham), known to best help children with reading problems. The mission of READWS is to reach, teach and advocate for struggling readers by training tutors, educators and parents to use the evidence-based best practices of a multi-sensory, structured literacy approach. We focus on students who are at an economic disadvantage.”
Difficulties in reading impact all areas of education. As much as teachers want to see every child succeed in the classroom, there is just not enough time to work one-on-one with every student. Each READWS tutor spends 45−60 minutes twice a week with a student, using the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach to significantly improve his or her reading, writing and spelling—and their students are learning. Each student is given a pre-test before beginning tutoring sessions and a post-test at the end of the tutoring year. This allows the tutor to identify particular areas of concern, incorporate them into his or her lesson plans and see the progress the student has made. Last year, Augustine tutors provided more than 7,000 hours of free, direct instruction in our local schools.
As stated in the new mission, READWS not only trains tutors, but educators and parents as well. “In summer 2015, READWS brought national reading expert and Orton Fellow Ron Yoshimoto to Winston-Salem to train 30 public school educators in structured literacy (O-G),” said Brown. “After receiving strong, positive feedback, READWS will host this training again in summer 2016. READWS also hosts dyslexia simulations and structured literacy (O-G) professional development for individual schools.”
Even though all parents want to help their children with their schoolwork, not all feel equipped to do so. “While many parents will not actively tutor their own children, READWS can empower parents to be much better homework helpers and advocates for their struggling readers,” said Brown. “READWS will pilot parent seminars in 2016, teaching appropriate structured literacy practices that can be used at home. READWS will cover early-warning signs to alert parents to possible reading difficulties.”
In addition to educator training and parent education, READWS offers free resources and advocacy. “Web-based resources are a game-change-multiplier that provides broader access to best practices and needed information without accompanying steep costs,” said Brown. “In 2016, READWS will build more free resources on its website (www.readws.org) and on its Pinterest page (www.pinterest.com/readws/). In addition, READWS will launch the start of a free video library, knowing that short “how-to” videos can be powerful sources of information. While READWS has always advocated for Augustine students, READWS is broadening its role to advocate for the known best practices of a structured literacy approach to become base knowledge for future teachers in our public schools.”
READWS tutors are well trained and have continued support throughout the year. “Our fall training session will be held September 19th−23rd from 8:30 am−2:30 pm or an evening/weekend training session from October 13th−17th,” said Brown. “We ask that tutors be willing to tutor one child twice a week during the school year for 45−60 minutes. We at READWS believe that EVERY CHILD in our city deserves the opportunity to be an excellent reader, and we will do everything we can to make that a reality.”
For more information on READWS, visit the website at www.readws.org. Parents who are interested in getting their children involved in the tutoring program may call Kris Cox at the READWS office, 336.723.4391, ext. 1504 to start the referral process or inquire about the program at their schools.