Bringing Education to After-School Programs - Summer 1999

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Reading in After-School Programs

"We must do make sure every child can read well by the end of the third grade."

 -- President Bill Clinton, State of the Union Address, 1997

Background. Today, too many children fail to read at a level we would expect for the grade they are in. In 1998, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 38 percent of our nation?s fourth graders failed to read at the basic level. Sixty-four percent of African American and 60 percent of Hispanic American fourth graders read below the basic level. We know that to succeed in school, be prepared for more advanced courses in high school and college, and participate in the high-skill workplace of the 21st century, all students need good reading skills. Research shows that students who are behind in reading can catch up to grade level with additional reading instruction and tutoring after school and in the summer.

How to integrate a high quality reading effort into an after-school program. Offering extended learning opportunities is clearly one of the major ways that we will ensure that all children can read in this country by the end of the third grade. Effective after-school programs and effective reading programs require participants to create partnerships with community-based organizations, such as libraries, literacy programs, college tutoring efforts, youth groups, cultural groups, members of the armed forces, and religious auxiliaries. Therefore, making reading a focus of an after-school and summer program is one good way to provide extended learning in reading.

Studies show that sustained individualized attention through extended learning time, when combined with parental involvement and quality school instruction can raise reading levels. This strategy seeks to create more after-school, weekend and summer learning opportunities to supplement quality classroom instruction in reading by enabling parents and educators to complement and expand existing successful literacy efforts. Many efforts to raise standards and eliminate social promotion include after-school and summer help to master the basics and core subjects.

The national goal of preparing all children to read at grade level by the end of third grade is very much in line with the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program?s goals of providing a variety of academic and enrichment activities to students and parents in the communities which they serve. Examples of how your Center can help include:




As you think about organizing and implementing your after-school program with a literacy focus, here are some materials available on the U.S. Department of Education?s website that can be useful to you:

  • Checkpoints for Progress - Families and Caregivers
  • Checkpoints for Progress - Teachers and Learning Partners
  • Compact for Reading (Available Spring 1999)
  • Expanding Federal Work-Study and Community Service Opportunities
  • Just Add Kids - A resource of directory of reading partners, reading pages and other literacy services for families and communities
  • Learning to Read/Reading to Learn Campaign - Helping Children With Learning Disabilities To Succeed
  • Play on Paper /Jugando Con Papel
  • Read With Me
  • Read*Write*Now! Reading Partner Program (Grades K-6)/ Actividades para Divertirse Leyendo y Escribiendo
  • Reading Partners: The Read*Write*Now! Partners Tutoring Program
  • Ready*Set*Read! Early Childhood Reading Readiness Program (Grades Pre-K -3)
  • Simple Things You Can Do To Help All Children Read Well and Independently

If you would like hard copies or if the electronic version is not yet accessible, you can order these materials by calling toll-free 1-877-4ED-PUBS, or order on-line by going to


U.S. Department of Education initiatives and reading improvement in afters-school and summer programs. Both after-school and summer programming are important components of the America Reads Challenge. Indeed, extended learning is one of the five strategies that the America Reads Challenge embraces to meet the goal of ensuring that every child can read well and independently by the end of the third grade. Among other activities, the America Reads Challenge currently supports two major programs: the America Reads Work-Study program and the Reading Excellence Program.

America Reads Work-Study Program: On July 1, 1997, the U.S. Department of Education encouraged colleges and universities to employ Federal Work-Study students to serve as reading tutors by waiving the requirement that employers pay part of their wages. This program provides undergraduates and graduate students with part-time employment, at little cost to elementary and middle schools, to become reading tutors in elementary schools, preschools, and family literacy programs. In just one year, more than 1,100 colleges and universities have joined the America Reads Work-Study program. Students at 3,300 colleges, universities and trade schools receive Federal Work-Study funds as part of their financial aid packages and can be a source of assistance to after-school and summer programs. In 1997, the Clinton-Gore Administration increased its allocation of Federal Work-Study funds by 35 percent.

Generally the employer pays at least 25 percent of the student's wages, and the Federal Work-Study program pays the rest. Under the America Reads waiver, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the wages of work-study students who serve as reading mentors or tutors to preschool and elementary school children. The wages of these tutors can be credited toward the institution's requirement that at least five percent of Federal Work-Study funds be used for community service.

Research shows that children whose parents work with them on language and literacy skills during early childhood become more successful readers. As parents are a child's first teachers, the America Reads waiver was extended on July 1, 1998, to include work-study students who tutor in family literacy programs. These programs provide services to children from infancy through elementary school and to their parents or caregivers.

Students from a diverse array of colleges and universities tutored children in the 1997-98 academic year. Tutors came from large public universities, small private colleges, community colleges, business schools, medical schools, chiropractic colleges, and a beauty academy, among others. Creative tutoring programs are as different as the institutions that host them.

For example, in South Florida, a consortium of schools led by Miami-Dade Community College sent tutors to inner city schools, while in the Pacific Northwest, a consortium led by Washington State University sent tutors to work with rural migrant children. New York University's 700 work-study students tutored more than 5,000 urban school children, and saw reading scores rise in one year. At the University of Maryland at Baltimore, work-study students contribute to The Reading Edge, a comprehensive after-school intervention. Last summer, 28 students worked full-time for 10 weeks at SuperKids Camp, a camp for 400 children in third and fourth grades that offers tutoring in reading skills and promotes entertaining reading activities.

In partnership with Philadelphia Reads, 60 University of Pennsylvania tutors reached 250 children in four schools and three community centers. At one Title I elementary school, after a five-month involvement in an extended day program, some second graders who had been far behind their peers jumped more than two grade levels in their reading ability. The principal of the school, Arthur Hall, said that the school-university partnership through America Reads, "creates a student-to-tutor ratio of 3:1 and gives the students the attention we know they need to excel. In addition?this program further motivates our students to read by providing new and different activities and strategies. All the students -- our students and the university students -- benefit tremendously from this partnership."

Schools interested in acquiring Federal Work-Study tutors should contact their local college?s community service and financial aid offices to see how they can help. Many colleges also send volunteers (non-Federal Work-Study students) into their neighboring communities as well, offering additional resources.

The Reading Excellence Program: In addition to the Work-Study Program, the America Reads Challenge office worked with Congress to pass the Reading Excellence Act in October 1998. The Reading Excellence Act has been authorized for the next two years, allowing even more at-risk children to receive the support they need to improve their literacy skills through local reading improvement subgrants and tutorial assistance subgrants. One of the four activities that the Reading Excellence Act supports is out-of-school tutoring. (The other three activities are professional development for instructional staff, family literacy programs, and programs for kindergarten children who are having difficulty making the transition to first grade.)

We know that to succeed in school, be prepared for more advanced courses in college, and participate in the high-skill workplace of the 21st century, all students need good reading skills. The Reading Excellence Act targets the children who are most in need of additional assistance at the most critical period: the primary grades. Research shows that students who are behind in reading can catch up to grade level with additional reading instruction.

Therefore, local school districts that receive local reading improvement subgrants from their state must include an assurance that they will use supervised individuals (including tutors), who have been appropriately trained using scientifically based reading research. These tutors will provide additional support before school, after school, on weekends, during non-instructional periods of the school day, or during the summer.

Additionally, states must make at least one tutorial assistance grant (TAG) to school districts most in need of help. Local districts with one school in an empowerment zone or enterprise community, districts with at least one school in Title I school improvement, districts with the highest or second highest percentage of child poverty in the state, and districts with the highest or second highest numbers of children in poverty in the state are eligible. These grants will be awarded to school districts to allow them to provide a number of after-school tutoring options (both school-based and non-school-based) for children in need of additional reading assistance.

It may also be possible that some of the 21st Century programs could be suitable to act as the non-school based program for the TAGs portion of the grant. Additionally, as federal work-study students and student volunteer exist in nearly every region of a state, these students could act as a free resource for 21st Century programs.

Contact and Other Sources of Information

Program Director: Joseph Conaty, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)



Fax: (202) 260-8969

For more information, contact:


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Last Updated -- August 30,1999, (glc)