How “Gen Next Reads” Helps You Close the Achievement Gap

Today we launch “Gen Next Reads”, a campaign to recruit more adults to tutor children in reading.

It’s a straightforward ask, and the first question may be: Why didn’t we do that earlier?   The answer to that question helps explain why the community with the most volunteers in the United States, can also have one of the country’s largest achievement gaps. It also explains why it is important for the coalition involved in Generation Next to align literacy efforts in the community.

The reason we didn’t ask for volunteer tutors earlier is there is a huge difference in the background and support reading tutors get when they work with children. One of the reasons a community with so many volunteers has too many children with underwhelming reading results is that many tutors do not have access to the best practices that get the most from our kids.  Too often children who need help are paired with a well-intentioned, but under-supported adult.

We cannot afford to waste the potential of this help for our children, and Generation Next is doing something about that. “Gen Next Reads” will recruit volunteer tutors for only those programs that have shown promising practices that give the adults the support they need to get results.

For more than a year we have been working with key literacy organizations who have been meeting to share their best practices to help each get better.  They include:

  • East Side Learning Center
  • Minnesota Reading Corps
  • LDA Minnesota
  • Project for Pride in Living
  • NdCAD – Network for the Development of Children of African Descent
  • Simpson Housing Services
  • CommonBond Communities
  • AARP Experience Corps
  • Way to Grow
  • Twin Cities Housing Development Corp
  • Saint Paul Public Libraries
  • Reading Partners

Now we are helping many of them use a common assessment tool, the Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) test, developed at the University of Minnesota to help them compare what is working best and share successful approaches with each other.

Through the help of United Way we are also bringing to town Reading Partners, an organization that has shown in many other communities that they can get results training volunteer reading tutors.

Here’s where you come in:

Can you be a volunteer tutor?  If so, click here and Generation Next will pair you with one of the key organizations we are working with to make sure you, and most important, the child, get the most from the experience.

Remember that there is a difference between an adult who volunteers to read to a child and a tutor.   A volunteer may make an occasional visit to a classroom or community center; this can be helpful and if that is your goal, click here to be directed to your local schools.  But volunteer readers are not what we are talking about in “Gen Next Reads.”

A tutor is a person who commits to a relationship with a child and, in the case of the groups we are working with, gets support and training from organizations that are proven to get results.

If you can’t commit to being a tutor, get the training you and our children deserve by attending an ABC’s of Reading Training that Generation Next is sponsoring with the Minnesota Literacy Council on September 30th, 9:00AM – 12:00PM and October 20th, 6:00-9:00PM.  We will be doing more work with the Literacy Council in the coming months.

Generation Next is not stopping here.  Along with this tutor recruitment, and the important work of our Reading Network.

Our other literacy efforts include:

  • Continuing to work with Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts and charters to link out-of-school efforts with in-school curriculum.
  • Meeting regularly with the top philanthropic funders in the community to use data to focus resources where they are needed most.
  • Integrating individual charitable efforts into this coordinated effort. An example we are announcing today is a very generous gift from General Mills, which is giving 20,000 books through First Book to the key literacy organizations in our network.  Because Generation Next and General Mills understand the importance of having children see themselves in the books they read, each of those books will be selected by the organizations to be culturally appropriate to the young people they serve.
  • Improving the quality of foundational literacy skills in early childhood, which is part of a broader Gen Next effort to ensure every child is ready for kindergarten.

Finally, we are not working on literacy in isolation. We know this includes support for our families in efforts like the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood and Northside Achievement Zone, in Kindergarten Readiness, High School Graduation, Post-Secondary work, their social emotional well-being and more.

We won’t sugar coat this: We have a deep challenge with literacy in our community.  The results are simply not good enough; not even close. But the country’s top volunteer community has the capacity to close the country’s largest achievement gap.   It starts with you.

On behalf of our kids, who deserve the best of you, you can learn more about “Gen Next Reads” and how you can get involved.

SIF 2015