The case for tutoring

I’m writing today because I genuinely care about the children of our community. I am a literacy tutor with the Minnesota Reading Corps for Jefferson Community School. As is often the case with experiences like this, I feel as though I’m learning as much as the students.

I became a tutor because I believe education is important. After graduating with a degree in education I was looking for a position that would allow be to work with schools while also gaining additional experience in the classroom. My role as a literacy tutor with Minnesota Reading Corps has been such a great fit. Not only do I get to use my background in education, I also am able to serve students, pay back student loans, and build my resume by gaining teaching experience.

Through my tutoring service, I genuinely feel as though I’m changing lives here in South Minneapolis. In some cases, I literally can see a student’s self-esteem rise. I can’t imagine a more gratifying feeling than seeing students smile or their eyes light up when they realize the progress they’re making. That’s why this service is so compelling to me.

I work with preschool students at Jefferson Community School helping them with literacy so that they can begin kindergarten on track. I spend about 10 minutes with three to four small groups of students every day of the week going over vocabulary, letter sounds, letter names, rhyming and alliteration. Additionally, I work with the teacher to build a schedule and classroom that supports student learning through play, song, and exploration.

We focus on the reading strategies on which I have been trained by Minnesota Reading Corps. Together the students and I witness a transformation, as they improve in reading, as well as other classroom work. Again, it seems that the biggest transformation is in their self-confidence. When students feel good about their ability to learn, it influences virtually every other aspect of their lives.

When you consider that one-in-five third graders is not reading at grade level, the need for literacy programs like this is critical. I was reassured to learn that Minnesota Reading Corps is the largest state AmeriCorps program in the country with proven results in impacting literacy.

In fact, 80 percent of third graders who successfully completed the program — all of whom previously were not on track to succeed — pass the statewide reading exam. This matches Minnesota’s overall pass rate.

I am happy to be able to make a difference in young people’s lives — especially knowing that literacy skills are critical for long-term success and altering the trajectories of their lives. This year there are over a thousand of us, and Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps are looking for more people who would be willing to put one year of their time into serving in education.

If you are looking for a way to give back, do something meaningful, are in between jobs, or just graduating, consider becoming a literacy or math tutor.

Perhaps you’re looking for a way to earn some money to pay off student loans ($5,550 for 11 months of full-time service), while getting some experience in a school. Whatever the reason, when you see the impact on students every day, a year of service is worth the commitment. For details about the opportunities, go to or

Rachel Johnson