MASON CITY | Literacy tutors are being sought for an expanding reading program at Mason City Schools. 

First piloted by Hoover Elementary, AmeriCorps’ Iowa Reading Corps program will be spreading to the three other elementary buildings, offering one-on-one assistance for K-3 students reading just below grade level.

The program duplicates a successful, evidence-based model first used in Minnesota in 2003 and is now growing across the state. It started in eight Iowa school districts during its inaugural year, expanding to 19 districts in 2014-15.

Melissa Christopherson is entering her second year as a tutor in Mason City. She is studying English and human services through Buena Vista University.

“I’ve always loved kids,” she said. “This seemed like a great opportunity to develop personally and professionally.”

Christopherson said her previous career, which involved high school students and recent high school graduates working on lower levels, didn’t provide the same level of professionalism she experiences working in a school setting.  

At Hoover she spends 20 minutes with close to 20 students a day, working through strategies like comprehension and blending words.

After students leave the short-term program, Christopherson says she sees students gain a “huge boost in confidence” that carries over to the classroom.

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If students aren't reading proficiently by third grade, a recent study by the American Educational Research Association found they are less likely to be successful in future educational endeavors. 

Those who can't read at grade level by that age are four times less likely to graduate than a peer who reaches proficiency in third grade, according to the study. 

Christopherson works with internal coach Meredith Hines, who supervises and acts as a liaison between AmeriCorps, teachers and parents.

In order for the program to expand, Hines said additional tutors are needed.  

The 11-month AmeriCorps positions are full-time, offering a modest living stipend and education credit which can be applied to past or future student loans or gifted to a family member. The education credit last year was $5,700, according to Hines.

Health insurance and child care assistance are available for eligible members.

For more information visit www.uwiowa.org/IowaReadingCorps.

Tutors are AmeriCorps members and are not employed by Mason City Schools.

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