Program Profile of the Month: The Children’s Initiative/AARP Foundation Experience Corps

Kristin Shea-Thiel, Reading Program Coordinator, shares a story about Daisy, one of the learners who attends their program: 

At the beginning of the year, most students start the program without much confidence when it comes to reading. They’ve been labeled as ‘below level’ and they know it. One of our students, Daisy, started the program last year as a 2nd grader reading at a beginning 1st grade reading level. She would constantly try to create reasons to hinder her tutoring sessions (hungry, tired, not feeling well, etc.), but with the continued relationship building and encouragement from her tutor, she started to see that her efforts were paying off. She practiced and mastered sight words and started to progress through the leveled books with success. Now a third grader, Daisy is still in the program – and almost reading at grade level. More importantly, she now sees herself as a reader. Those avoidance tactics are long gone and she loves being part of ‘reading club’. Daisy’s story is reflective of the many other students in the program who start off feeling discouraged or insecure about reading and who then grow into self-identified good readers through the dedicated support of their tutors.

Tutors Joanne, LeAnne, and Carey are all excited to be volunteer tutors for The Children’s Initiative. Joanne, a retired special education teacher,  joined because this is a great way for her to get involved and give back to her community. The oldest tutor in this program is 94 years old and is still working with kids to help them strengthen their reading skills.  Students are excited when they come into start their reading time and see their tutors with whom they have built strong relationships. Chatters of, “I love these books!” and “How about you read what is on top and I read what is on the bottom?” simmer through the classroom.

 What do you want people to know about your program?

As the local host agency for the Experience Corps, The Children’s Initiative trains and coordinates literacy tutors ages 50+ to serve in expanded learning programs on school campuses within San Diego Unified and Lemon Grove School Districts.  Tutors are matched with students in grades K – 3rd who have been identified as needing extra reading support. Tutors work with the same students for the duration of the school year, creating unique intergenerational connections in which both students and tutors benefit. The students work with tutors after school, during the expanded learning program  time. The Children’s Initiative currently has 10 schools in their program.

How can people get involved and support the program?

Become a tutor! If you would like to learn more about becoming a volunteer reading tutor, please contact Sarah Williams at The Children’s Initiative also accepts new or very gently used book donations appropriate for Kindergarten – 3rd grade students. 


Contacts and Links:

Kristin Shea, Reading Program Coordinator


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