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 Americas 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 childrens 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 dont want to have a tutor next year because I want to be a tutor! [elementary school tutee].
Its a program where someone believes in you and is willing to help you succeed [high school tutee].
Ive 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 tutees] 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.