One tutor. One child. Infinite possibilities.

Reading Partners pairs volunteer tutors with students to help close the reading gap

Thrivent members volunteer with Reading Partners to help kids thrive in school and life.

"The more that you read, the more things you'll know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." – Dr. Seuss

Whether it's Green Eggs and Ham, Harry Potter or another all-time favorite, reading can empower kids to reach their full potential in school – and in life.

Yet only about 35% of fourth graders in the U.S. can read proficiently. For students from low-income families, that number drops to 18%. Once students fall behind in reading, their confidence level often drops, making it even more difficult to practice their skills.

Brad Creswell, a Thrivent Member Network – Northwest Region board member, can personally relate to this feeling.

"I didn't come from an underprivileged background, but I never really mastered reading until later in life," says Creswell. "That made school a struggle for me early on.

"I saw from my personal journey how you could liberate a kid by teaching him how to read," he adds. "That's what really drew me to get involved with Reading Partners."

"I saw from my personal journey how you could liberate a kid by teaching him how to read."

Unlocking kids' potential

Reading Partners is a nonprofit organization working in under-resourced schools. They pair volunteer tutors with K-4 kids who read below their grade level. A volunteer provides one-on-one tutoring to the same student each week, helping close the reading gap before the child enters fifth grade.

According to Creswell, who is also a member of Reading Partners' national board of directors, third grade is a critical dividing line, when kids move from learning to read to reading to learn. Studies show:

  • Kids who cannot read at grade level by the start of fourth grade are four times less likely to graduate on time than their grade-level peers.1
  • 60% of America's prison inmates are illiterate.2
  • 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.2

Volunteers help kids make the grade

Reading Partners Interim Executive Director Cassy Charyn, says much of the program's success can be attributed to the structured curriculum – and the volunteers who partner with kids to make a lifelong difference.

"Having a caring, positive adult show up for students every week is so important to our students," says Charyn. "We not only see kids grow in their reading skills, we also see their confidence level grow. And that's so important for success in reading and in life."

Thrivent member Barbara Cropp is a volunteer reading partner at Madrona Elementary School in Seattle. As a tutor, she's seen the positive impact the program can make on students – and volunteers.

"Working one on one with my student and seeing how he progresses throughout the year and gets excited about what he's learning is really gratifying," says Cropp. "You can really make a big difference in the life of a child – for the good."

Thrivent Member Network gets bookin'

When the Thrivent Member Network – Northwest Region learned that Reading Partners in King County, Washington, needed tutors as well as books, they jumped into action.

In February 2017, Thrivent members, businesses, churches and financial representatives collaborated to organize a book drive. Book shelves were placed in Thrivent Financial representatives' offices throughout King County with signs that read, "Add a book."

Another drive was held in October. In total, 2,167 books were collected for the Take Reading Home Library. The library lets students choose a book they can keep. Kids can then write a book report – their "ticket" to bring another book home for their personal library.

"We are so grateful to Thrivent for their support through the book drives they've held, and the support members provide through volunteering and directing Choice Dollars®," says Charyn. "It truly makes an impact in providing programs for kids who really need it."

How you can help a child read better

Reading Partners has locations in 11 states across the country. The combination of one-on-one tutoring and a structured curriculum produces remarkable results. According to Charyn, 83% of students in the program meet or exceed their primary end-of-year literacy goal.

If you'd like to make a difference in a child's life, here are some ways you can help:

Not a member? Learn more about Thrivent and what makes us different.

1 Reading

2 U.S. Department of Education