According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 21 million Americans are illiterate and 40 million American adults read and write at or below the fifth-grade level (1 in 4 adults).
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattleâ€™s “Study Buddy” program is working to make a dent in those statistics. This group of volunteers tutor Seattle Public Schoolsâ€™ students, one-on-one, in kindergarten though eighth grade. Most of the children are
African-American, Southeast Asian or Hispanic. The volunteers are white and Jewish and range from 14 to 98 years old. The program is especially attractive, said Study Buddy Chairman Albert Israel, to volunteers without children at home.
Study Buddy recruits local adult Jews and assigns them one specific child. The tutor then meets with that child for one hour per week, usually at the childâ€™s school. Study Buddy volunteers are encouraged to be mentors as well as tutors. Not only do they help enhance studentsâ€™ performance in the core subjects, primarily math and reading, but they also try to create a non-judgmental, supportive environment where the child can relax and be him- or herself.
The program has adopted Madrona and TT Minor Elementary in the Central Area, Dearborn Park Elementary in south Seattle, Sanislo Elementary in West Seattle and Olympic View and Hamilton Middle in the north end. Tutoring is most needed in the Central Area and the South End schools, the same schools where many Jewish Seattleites matriculated in their youth. Israel said Study Buddy is something that he highly recommends to everyone.
Many of these children have difficult home lives, with parents working so hard to make ends meet that they canâ€™t support their childrenâ€™s scholastic endeavors in the same ways parents from more affluent homes can. The NAEP reports that nationally, children from middle-class homes have had 1,000â€“1,700 hours of one-to-one experiences with books before they reach kindergarten, whereas children from low-income homes have had only 25 hours of one-to-one book time by the same age. The Study Buddy tutors help fill in the holes created by poverty, neglect, loss and misunderstanding.
Israel has observed that, not only do many Jews have a desire to help the community as a whole, but helping those that come from the “old neighborhood” can be even more satisfying. He said the program is about providing kids with the tools they need for life. Nationally, according to NAEP, more than 75 percent of welfare recipients, 85 percent of single mothers and 70 percent of Americans arrested are illiterate.
“What I like most is, it gives me the ability to impact a needy childâ€™s life,” said Israel.
For more information on the Study Buddy program, call 206-346-3330 or e-mail Andrea Bricker at firstname.lastname@example.org.