UAH America Reads / Math Counts Program marks 17 years of success

America Reads

UAH's America Reads/Math Counts program enables university students to tutor elementary school children struggling with comprehension skills. Nikita Jones, a UAH senior biology student and America Reads/Math Counts tutor reads to children.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (July 28, 2014) — The national literacy program, America Reads Challenge is nearly 20 years old, and teachers and tutors alike are still marveling at the program's success.

It has been 17 years since The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Education Department and Huntsville City Schools began the pilot project to improve literacy and reading skills among children in grades kindergarten through third grade.

The education initiative was funded as a Federal Work Study (FWS) Program, and UAH students employed through FWS are hired to tutor children at selected schools and provide one-on-one reading and comprehension activities. Building on the success of the America Reads Challenge, Math Counts was initiated in 1999, to improve student achievement in math comprehension.

"UAH has a long history of providing work study students the opportunity to participate in the America Reads Program (ARP). The America Reads Challenge is an initiative started in 1996 by the Clinton administration to support literacy education through tutors who give children the personal attention they need to catch up and get ahead," said Dr. Beth Nason Quick, Chair and Professor of Education. "UAH students have most recently served at Morris and Rolling Hills (elementary schools) in the Huntsville City School System. The program is a win-win for all involved. UAH students are paid for their tutoring services and a struggling child receives individualized assistance and support on a consistent basis from a university student," Quick added. "It is not uncommon for our UAH students to continue more than one semester or even more than one year. Strong relationships and bonds are formed as they work with one student across time.

"We are delighted that UAH continues to participate in America Reads. All the tutors attend an orientation session provided by the UAH Department of Education before beginning their community service hours as a tutor. I hear the success stories from tutors and principals. I hope this is a partnership with Huntsville City Schools that will continue for many years to come," Quick said.

Nikita Jones, a UAH biology (pre-health concentration) senior who graduates in December has tutored children at Morris Elementary School for three years. She usually averages about 20 hours per week as a student tutor at the school.

"Funding for ARP should definitely continue because it provides much needed one-on-one time with students who may not be up to speed in reading and math. And, ARP tutors help take the stress off teachers when statewide exams are being administered," Jones said. "Another reason the program should continue to be funded is because it provides struggling college students with a source of income, and scheduling is flexible, which is very rare."

Jones previous experiences with youth summer campus in her hometown, of Clayton, Ala., helped her get a tutoring position with the UAH America Reads program. In the years she has served as a tutor, Jones has observed a thing or two that would help most children excel in the classroom.

"I would tell parents to do homework with their child, including reading with them at night. If parents can take an hour to sit with their children and work on a skill, it will make learning in class much easier, and also increase scores on tests," Jones pointed out. "Also,parents can randomly drop-in at the school to visit the child and see his or her progress in class. Parents can encourage their child to be well behaved during school so that learning in the classroom may be maximized. I feel like managing classroom behavior sometimes takes away from the class lesson."

After she graduates from UAH, Jones plans to go on to dental school. She became fascinated with the field of dentistry a few years ago, after getting braces.

This year, the university will hire approximately 20 ARP tutors for the 2014-2015 academic school year. Dr. Beth Quick, UAH Education Department chairperson will hold a training session for ARP tutors on Tuesday, Aug. 19, in Frances Roberts Hall.

In addition to America Reads/Math Counts tutors, many UAH athletes and student organizations volunteer in Huntsville area schools.

For more information, contact:
Joyce Anderson-Maples