In this two-part series, we talk with literacy coaches Jeri Harris and Wanda Lofton about their experience working with Team Read and what has inspired them to continue this important work for so many years.
What’s different about working with teen tutors versus adults?
Jeri: The teens are open to trying new things. They love getting positive feedback and are willing to try the things that you suggest. They are sometimes surprised at the gifts that they bring and how much influence they have on the students. The one-on-one attention that students receive is so important and teachers often don’t have that much time to spend with one student. The relationship that the teens have with the students sets the students up for a successful classroom experience.
Wanda: The teen tutors bring a natural relatability to students that adults often have to work at to achieve. The teens are closer in age to the students and can relate to their struggles (and achievements) in reading. A lot of the students have an older brother or sister and this helps in the relationship building.
How do you think the relationship between teens and elementary students plays a role in the success of the program?
Jeri: The teens are committed to helping the students. The tutors provide positive feedback, one-on-one attention, and a fresh start if the student has had a difficult day. The students are motivated and the teens share stories of when they have struggled to help the student know that things will get better. All of this helps Team Read succeed.
Wanda: Both tutors and students want to be successful and this provides incentive to do their best. The one-on-one attention that tutors provide for students gives them the extra support they need to succeed in reading.
What advice would you give to a new reading coach?
Jeri: Being a reading coach is such important work. You make a difference every time you interact with your student. Some of the students will become reading coaches because of you. All of them will become better readers and hopefully learn to love reading because of your influence. You can, you must, you will make a difference for all of our students.
Wanda: My advice to new reading coaches is to be open and willing to work with a student and be confident that he or she can make a difference with the student. Ask for advice or support when unsure what to do or how to do it. Stay focused and expect the best from the tutee.
Team Read has expanded in its 20th school year, adding new schools and program sites in Seattle and Highline Public Schools.
Team Read is serving students at 13 sites this year.
“I keep coming back to Team Read because I like how the kids are energetic and ready to read. I like to see their growth,” said Jente He, a Cleveland High School junior now in her fourth year working for Team Read.
“At first, we were concerned that a shift in bell times at Seattle schools would limit our ability to serve students,” said Bill Eisele, Program Manager for Team Read. “But the need for quality after-school programming, and literacy support, is just as urgent now as ever, and our partner schools are helping to make it possible for us to help their students.”
This year also marks the first time Team Read is offering programming at local library sites during the school year. Building on its partnership with Seattle Public Library in our summer program, Team Read is working with local kids at High Point Branch Library in West Seattle and also NewHolly Branch Library on south Beacon Hill.
We have also launched a partnership program with East African Community Services, also on Beacon Hill. Team Read coaches provide reading support twice per week to students enrolled at EACS.
More than 500 high school and middle school students applied to work as Team Read reading coaches this fall. High school students earn hourly pay, college tuition funds or service learning hours for their work. Eighth graders volunteer to participate in the program.
“I enjoy making bonds with the kids and being able to brighten up someone’s day,” said Alex Ylagan, a senior at West Seattle High School, now in her fifth year with Team Read.
Alex said she’s excited to see Team Read growing in West Seattle, with the chance to serve more students. “Everyone deserves all the opportunities they can get.”
Team Read is kicking off our 20th year of programming this month! Since 1998, we’ve served more than 18,000 students by providing reading tutoring support for 2nd and 3rd graders and meaningful paid jobs for teens. There are so many amazing people who have helped make this program a success – students, teachers, literacy specialists, donors, Board members, SPS and HPS staff – and we want to hear from you! We’re asking everyone who has been a part of Team Read over the past two decades to participate in a quick and fun activity.
- Print the template.
- Complete the sentence, “20 years of Team Read means…”
- Take a photo of yourself holding the sign
- Post to social media using the hashtag #20YearsofTeamRead
Send the photo to Kristin Galioto at email@example.com
Registration opens January 2018. Stay tuned for more details!
Joan Dore is a legend in the Team Read community. Joan was working at Seattle Public Schools in 1997 as the district’s Reading Programs Manager, and she played the leading role in developing the Team Read concept. Joan also went on to serve on our Board of Directors, and she has devoted countless hours to supporting the program as an adviser, trainer, curriculum developer and long-term donor.
As Team Read celebrates its 20th anniversary, we asked Joan to look back at those early years, and the dream that became a thriving program …
Hi Joan! Thank you, from all of us, for helping to create Team Read. What made you want to help with the initial planning and implementation of the program?
Well, Craig and Susan McCaw (local business leaders) came to Superintendent John Stanford and said they wanted to help the district with reading, and they offered to make a donation to help lead this effort. I called more than a dozen people who knew about reading and said, ‘If money was no object, what would you want to do in our schools to improve reading?’ I got a ton of ideas, I sifted through them, and I came up with several proposals. I presented them to the McCaws, and they selected the Team Read model.
How did the program idea originate?
I based the Team Read model on a cross-age tutoring program I ran when I was a teacher at B.F. Day Elementary. I trained the fifth graders to work with first graders, and it went really well, so that’s where I got the original idea for the model.
Reading is so crucial to success in school and life, and the Team Read model supplemented what we were doing in the school district. It gave students an extra shot of reading. It helped the younger kids, but it was very exciting for the older kids too, to have a job and see results. I was glad to be a part of the early development.
What has been your proudest moment during your time with Team Read?
What warms my heart the most is when I visit sites and see the kids working and see their pride in what they’re doing. Every time I visit the sites, I feel the greatest joy.
We’ve served more than 18,000 kids – that’s a big impact!
Where did you imagine the program would be 20 years after its inception?
I would have hoped and dreamed that it would be where it is, but at first, it was just a hope and a dream, and I wasn’t sure it would come true. I want Team Read to keep on keeping on! I want it to never lose its core values. I want it to go from 18,000 students served to 40,000!