Ty Swenson
Health Sciences and Human Services High School student Yasmin Quin reads with a White Center Heights Elementary student at the Southwest Boys and Girls Club on Jan. 14. Quin and several other volunteer high schoolers are tutoring WC Heights 3rd graders in reading skills as part of the newly formed Club Read. PLEASE SEE THE SLIDESHOW BELOW FOR MORE.

SLIDESHOW: High schoolers connect with third graders to improve reading skills

For a select crew of third grade students from White Center Heights Elementary, Jan. 14 was a pretty sweet day as they met their new reading tutors for the next 8 to 10 weeks: High school students from the Evergreen campus.

That Monday was the kickoff of a new after-school reading tutoring program at Highline School District called Club Read, modeled after the non-profit Team Read operating since 1998 in Seattle Public Schools.

White Center Heights Principal Anne Reece said the program - a partnership between the Highline School District, King County Housing Authority and the Southwest Boys & Girls Club – is in its “gestation” period.

“Our goal is to be in talks with (Team Read) to perhaps be a part of the bigger non-profit organization,” Reece said. “They have an interest in getting into Highline Schools.”

“We haven’t done this before in Highline,” Reece told the students and tutors before the program began, “so you are really on the edge of things.”

Sara Betts, a reading specialist at White Center Heights and coordinator for Club Read, spends her days working with students who are not reading at grade level and need some extra help. Betts trains the high school students who agree to volunteer a few hours after school two days a week, and they pair up one high schooler with one third grader so the two can develop a friendship while they read.

“It’s really big because they not only get to read one-on-one with a person who is a capable reader, but they also get to read with high school students, which is really motivating for them,” Betts said. “They are really excited about meeting older kids, its super cool.”

“These are kids who are not reading at grade level, so they get a chance to practice their skills with someone who is not in a teacher position, just a friendly companion,” she added.

The high school students learn how to tutor and get a little something extra to put on those college applications.

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Around 20 third graders shuffled into a resource room at the Boys & Girls Club in White Center and their eyes lit up as they met their towering role models for the first time. The first order of business was to secure after-school snacks to keep those energy levels high for the upcoming hour of reading lessons. Next, the pupils and their tutors selected from a vast array of books.

After getting to know each other for a few minutes, the books were opened and the little ones listened intently as their new, tall and extra-cool friends began reading fantastic tales aloud. You could hear progress being made as tutor and student began their journey towards improved reading.

Betts said Club Read is looking for additional volunteer tutors from Highline high schools to continue expanding the program. She can be reached at 206-631-5200 or sara.highlineschools.org.

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