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Too many of our children are illiterate. In 2002, almost 70 percent or two out of three fourth graders in the U.S could not read at grade level. Statistics show that 80-90 percent of children in public schools who are unable to read by the end of first grade never learns to read.

The consequences of low reading skills are far reaching. It is widely recognized that poor scholastic performance of students is a major factor in elevating frustration and reducing self-worth, potentially leading towards anti-social responses to life problems. Lacking individualized attention and guidance, many at-risk students or students from limited home and school socioeconomic environments, seldom learn the necessary skills to overcome barriers in constructive ways that build their self-esteem. A high percentage of those in prison (70%), arrested annually (70%), juvenile offenders (85%), unemployed (75%), school dropouts (75%), and teenage mothers (86%) cannot read.

Obviously, the cost of illiteracy is staggering - more than $225 billion a year in lost productivity in the U.S. Some states now base their projections for future prison construction, in part, on the number of second graders who are not reading at grade level. The Child Delinquency Bulletin (March 2003) shows that a typical criminal career costs society between $1.3 million to $1.5 annually. Savings due to early intervention range from $21,836 to $131,918 per person. According to the Juvenile Justice Bulletin (2000), benefits include savings to the criminal justice system, victims and their family members (medical expenses, damages, lost wages, lost quality of life), less substance abuse among the young, improved educational output and reduced remediation, decreased demand on welfare services and increased wage potential, less need for mental health services and public health care, reduced child births by women in lower socioeconomic status, and reduction in divorces and separations.

While illiteracy and poor academic performance is damaging, it is not incurable. Research from the Department of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shows that all but two to five percent of children attending America’s public schools can become successful readers if taught appropriately. Increased support and attention in school can prevent academically at-risk students from dropping out and discontinuing their education.

Educational research indicates commonly cited benefits of peer and cross-age tutoring. Both tutors and tutees learn academic skills and develop positive social behaviors, classroom discipline, enhanced peer relations, improved self-esteem, and “internal locus of control.” Both become better-adjusted students with skills transferable to parenting when mature. The classroom and school atmosphere becomes more cooperative, pleasant, and less competitive. Tutors’ truancy and disciplinary referrals decrease as tutors feel they are valuable.

Tutees – Likewise, comments from tutees, tutors, parents, and teachers indicate that S.O.S. tutees enjoy the one-on-one work with peers. They often feel that it is easier to learn with the peer tutoring program because they were being taught by another student, someone who spoke a similar language and seemed more approachable than a teacher. Tutees thus overcome the stigma or fear of expressing opinions, asking questions and getting help, and risking solutions. They feel less isolated and build relationships with positive role models. Peer tutoring not only gives tutees academic confidence by helping them become more organized, and improve their academic skills and performance, as they become more involved in class, it also increases their self-confidence, decreases their isolation, and increases their socialization. It raises their expectations of themselves, establishes goals, and broadens their horizons. In fact, many tutees academically improve to the point that they become tutors, and some are now teachers themselves! Teachers also indicate that the peer tutoring provides an effective alternative for lack of support at home.

Evergreen School estimated that after participation in the program, 70 percent of the students served improved their grades and was performing academically on grade level. Perrysburg reported that 100 percent of tutees’ parents reported that their child improved academically and overall, in study skills and confidence in the classroom, and wanted the program continued. Likewise, 100 percent of the tutees felt that “tutoring helped [them] improve” and that they “felt better about school and [themselves].”

Tutors also improve academically, having had to learn the concepts well enough to teach them. They become more patient, caring, supportive of others, organized, and responsible. The tutors find satisfaction in sharing their knowledge with peers and develop leadership skills. They also learn real world skills and real job experience (e.g. how to apply for job, undergo interview, fill out time cards and IRS forms, and handle their pay). In a meaningful, rewarding work experience they acquire good working habits and experience the satisfaction of earning money.

S.O.S. benefits everyone. Teachers, who often feel stretched for resources and time, appreciate this “back-up” support, which provides the extra attention and detail that they are not always able to provide. Parents, who otherwise would not have been able to afford additional tutoring for their child, find that their children’s attitude, grades, and social relationships improve. Administrators gain from all of the positive benefits of peer tutoring including improved test scores and social behavior.

Funds go directly to area schools (not to a distant bureaucracy) to support the program as designed by the school to meet its individual needs. School districts and communities are positively impacted. Lagging students have a chance to catch up. Successful students have a chance to share their skills and inspire younger ones. Busy teachers gain a support network and money-strapped administrators receive funds for a program which communities are eager to support. Feedback from participants praise S.O.S. for the opportunities the programs provide:

“Even the tutees that seemed to be the most difficult when we first started are now willing to work hard for praise and for their own benefit” [elementary school coordinator].

“Majorly! [peer tutoring helped] My grades skyrocketed. I definitely think that the peer tutoring program helped me on organizational skills, responsibility for homework, and many more things” [elementary school tutee].

“I don’t want to have a tutor next year because I want to be a tutor!” [elementary school tutee].

“It’s a program where someone believes in you and is willing to help you succeed” [high school tutee].

“I’ve learned that there are more important things than video games and junk food – and that is education” [middle school tutor].

“[My child] was really hopeful and then happy that [his tutee’s] reading improved. He has learned patience and to be concerned about fellow students, and that what he does, does matter” [parent of 5th, 6th grade tutor].

“My students are more organized, they want to read more, and they are able to ask more comprehensive questions” [4th grade teacher].

S.O.S. funds and promotes peer tutoring programs in school districts to support and catch at-risk students, before they fall through the cracks.

© Copyright 1999 by S.O.S., Inc., this page and all subsidiary pages.

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