With 130 volunteers going into Isla Vista and Goleta homes to tutor children every week, the Community Affairs Board (CAB) Family Literacy Program is now enjoying the highest rate of success in its history.
The Family Literacy Program, established by CAB eight years ago to encourage literacy development among Goleta and Isla Vista children, has taken on a revitalized approach to community outreach. Volunteers spend one to three hours a week tutoring elementary school children.
CAB Chair Paul Riley attributed the success of the program to the commitment of CAB members Dan Edgar, Emily Dubin and Kristina Howard, who coordinated the program.
“They took a hard look at the program and said, ‘This is how we are going to do it,’ and they followed through with it,” Riley said. “They built up a lot of excitement among the volunteers.”
In efforts to reorganize the program, Edgar created positions to handle different responsibilities such as handling book distribution and financial matters, which had previously been problems that contributed to a stagnant program.
The initial meeting between the children and the tutors remains the most difficult element of forming a lasting working relationship – most volunteers failed to follow through with the commitment, as they were intimidated by the thought of going into a family’s household without any preparation.
Edgar said he realized, due to his first-hand experience of tutoring a child with no training, that the program would need to better prepare its volunteers to become successful.
“When I signed up for the program, I got this name and address,” Edgar said. “I was scared. I thought we needed to come up with something better.”
Edgar implemented a training program to inform the volunteers of what to expect when tutoring the children. Volunteers learn that a common session entails reading with the student and helping with homework. The training also informs tutors how to provide rewards and affirmations to help with the development of the students’ schoolwork.
The Family Literacy Program relies on recruiting community families through flyers that are sent out to the elementary schools. The program also enlists teachers who know about the program and can check the progress of children who are falling behind.
Once the connection is made, Howard and Edgar said both student and tutor look forward to their weekly meeting, which is a big reason why the program has been so successful this year.
Riley attributes the enthusiasm of the volunteers to the reward of watching a child improve.
“The program builds up the kids’ confidence because the children are able to achieve more than they did before,” Howard said. “It gets them closer to the level of their class. It allows them to form a bond with a college student. When you are a young kid, and you have a college student coming to see you every week, it gives them confidence and something to look forward to.”