April is National Volunteer Month and we are thankful to all
of the generous volunteers who support Indianapolis Public Schools.


It’s these volunteers who fuel the United Way of Central Indiana’s
ReadUP program, which provides reading tutors to students across Central
Indiana. This school year, students at 19 IPS schools are better readers because
ReadUP tutors supplement classroom instruction by providing one-on-one


In fact, volunteers are serving 332 IPS students through
this year’s program.


“It’s fulfilling to me,” said Jami Burdine, a ReadUP
volunteer who was working with children at Washington Irving School 14 on April
5. “I can help make a difference and I like reading, so it kind of goes
together. More importantly, I enjoy getting to see them get better over time.
It’s very rewarding.”


At Washington Irving, approximately 30 volunteers – mostly
from insurance provider Gregory &
, pharmaceuticals company Eli
Lilly & Company
and engineering firm HNTB
– work with 20 third graders each week for the entire school year. Consistency
is key for the students to progress.


“Fifty sessions is the magic number,” said Sherry Webber,
UWCI Reading Specialist and a retired IPS teacher. “According to research,
students improve the most if they have seen their tutor and spent 50 sessions
with their tutor.”


While the work that goes into helping students become better
readers is important, each session always begins with pleasantries. It’s when
the student and tutor “catch up” with each other.  


“Tutors are great because they talk about things outside of
reading,” said Danny Graham, Parent Involvement Educator at Washington Irving. “They
ask about your hobbies and interests. They really connect with the student


After a two-week long spring break, students at Washington
Irving had lots to share with their tutors. Once everyone was caught up, students
began reading books they selected from the book cart provided by UWCI.


But it’s not just about phonics during ReadUP sessions.
Tutors also ask questions to help students analyze and comprehend what they’ve
read. If there’s a word that trips up the reader, the tutor makes a note so
they can work on it later.

Sessions end with a writing prompt for both the student and
tutor. The student is asked to answer questions related to the reading while
the tutor fills out a progress sheet that rates the students’ fluency,
comprehension and areas for improvement.


“It doesn’t take much of your time. You get to be with the
kids a half hour each week while they get comfortable with reading. You can see
the results in their reading scores. It’s a great thing to do,” said volunteer
Julie Zamarripa.


Teachers and students, who both appreciate the support from
ReadUP, are thrilled that there’s noticeable progress in the classroom
performance and on Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) scores.


“There’s been tremendous growth this year. Of our 20
students, all of them have improved in their scores except two. Those two stayed
the same,” said Graham.


The experience leaves a lasting impression for both the
student and tutors and it makes them both eager to return.


“Absolutely! The joy I’ve seen personally from the kids’
perspective and just seeing improvement, I’ll do it again for sure,” said first-time
volunteer P.J. Goduto.
Interested in becoming a ReadUP volunteer? Click
here for more information.