LAKE COUNTY – Reading Power’s trained volunteer literacy tutors gathered for their annual appreciation reception in April. The 200-strong tutor force got together to toast themselves, reconnect with fellow tutors, share student stories, and celebrate the impact they’re making on roughly 200 young students in North Chicago and Zion.
This event, hosted by the Reading Power Board of Directors and held at Lake Forest’s Church of the Holy Spirit, attracted tutors, family members and friends. Students are always the focus at Reading Power, but this celebratory evening places its volunteers front and center. Friendships formed well over a decade ago, in many cases, have grown out of tutors’ mutual participation in the work of making a difference in a child’s life.
Honored this year was longtime tutor Eleanor McMurrin, now retired, who earlier taught French at Lake Forest High School for 33 years. McMurrin’s passion for teaching and literacy made her a perfect fit with Reading Power’s mission to help the young children of North Chicago learn to read and write. Reading Power co-founder Mary Jane Hender, EdD, recruited McMurrin in 2003 to be among the organization’s first volunteer literacy tutors. McMurrin demonstrated exemplary commitment to the students of Reading Power, where she individually tutored first and second graders in North Chicago for nearly thirteen years.
Rebecca Mullen, MSEd, Executive Director of Programs, thanked McMurrin for the example she set for all tutors. “You knew how important it was to the children for you to be consistently there for them, and so you were. You have given dozens of our region’s most vulnerable children a chance for a literate life. We honor you and thank you on behalf of the children.”
Kathy McFarland, PhD, CEO, Chairman of the Board, and tutor, shared touching and humorous moments from this past year, amid the buzz of laughter and reconnection. She noted the “tutor glow” of exhilaration that lit up the room that night. This same glow shows on tutor’s faces each time they tutor and is understood by this passionate group. Reading Power draws women and men from Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, neighboring North Shore communities and beyond, who hail from vastly different and diverse backgrounds.
Students benefit immeasurably from this tutor diversity, while adults have great fun and grow in meaningful ways, too. Tutor retention is high, around 80%, and most tutors come via word of mouth. They hear how much their friends love what they are doing and want to come on board. Many describe volunteering at Reading Power as the most worthwhile volunteer opportunity in which they’ve ever been involved.
The tutoring atmosphere in the Reading Power classrooms is one of collegial support, learning, and friendship. Tutors work one-to-one with students daily, 20 minutes with kindergarteners and 35 minutes with first and second graders using research-based and cutting-edge curricula. They see the same three or four students throughout the year creating a trusting, relationship where students develop confidence, learn to take risks, and become problem solvers. The volunteer commitment is three hours every week in the morning or afternoon.
McMurrin shared her passion for being a literacy tutor: “When a six year old can read only one word, you’re job is to teach him or her how much fun it is to read. It’s a matter of friendly persuasion. When you read, it gives you power. This makes a huge difference since a child never has the feeling of powerlessness. Reading gives you the power to control yourself.”
Reading Power honors Eleanor McMurrin and extends its deep gratitude to her and to all of its dedicated and skilled volunteers for their service to the students of North Chicago and Zion.
Reading Power is an individualized literacy tutoring program serving kindergarten, first, and second grade students in North Chicago and Zion, Illinois public schools.
Founded in 2003, its mission is to accelerate the literacy learning of children who can benefit from additional support. They believe that all children deserve to reach their intellectual potential. They accomplish this goal through an independent tutoring program working in partnership with the schools. Reading Power’s goal is to promote in each student a love of reading and writing. They operate in their own classrooms in the schools during the school day.
Reading Power has provided one-to-one literacy tutoring to over 2,000 students with documented and impactful results. Their curricula are modeled after Project Prevent from National Louis University and Reading Recovery, renowned worldwide for early literacy intervention.
Submitted by Reading Power