“We are working with beginning readers,” said Caroline Nathans, program director for the site and a former teacher and reading consultant. “Our tutors are helping students master basic foundational skills needed to read. Support at this time can radically alter a student’s future.” 

Each tutor receives an individualized lesson plan for the student, which draws on touch, sound, and sight to create a multisensory and structured approach to reading. For example, a board with moveable letters allows students to build words using the sounds they know. Students also review images that work as clues for letter sounds; they see a finger scratching an arm to represent the “short i” in “itch.” By the end of the hour, students apply the day’s lesson by reading books carefully picked out  for them.

While the tutors provide reading instruction, they also offer praise and encouragement. “Many of our students have not experienced success,” said Nathans. “Our tutors tell them, ‘You can do it.’ They lift up the students and show them that they are important.”

Nathans applauds the incredible group of tutors who proudly share in the students’ success. Recently one child ran across the room to announce that she had read an entire book. “It was a powerful moment,” said Nathans. “Everyone in the room was beaming. At times like this you can see a child’s growth right before your eyes.” 

The Erickson community, led by Principal Kelly Mickel,has provided support for the students both before and after the tutoring sessions. After school, the students have a nutritious meal while they listen to a book read byNancy Tooson, assistant director of the program. Tooson also leads educationalgames after tutoring and before the parents pick up their children.

Many individuals worked to make the tutoring site a reality, including Ypsilanti community leaders Pastor Willie Powell of Grace Fellowship Church, and Kathy Wyatt of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s office. Stressing the need to serve children in Ypsilanti neighborhoods, they worked closely and enthusiastically with FLI to open the Erickson tutoring site this spring.

FLI also wishes to thank AT&T for providing generous funding for the Ericson tutoring program.