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An elementary school student and U mentor reading.

U of M students tutor nearly 3,000 children through the University Literacy Initiative.

Helping children read: the life-changing efforts of the literacy initiative

the life-changing efforts of the literacy initiative

From M, summer 2004

One child, one tutor, one book at a time. That's how the University Literacy Initiative is helping change the lives of Minnesota children. The program, which began in 1998 at the College of Education and Human Development, is supported through gifts from alumni and faculty and evolved from a long-standing focus on literacy and children's literature at the University. It recognizes that reading is the foundation for learning and critical for school success. Rosemary Miller, Literacy Initiative Coordinator, coordinates the tutoring program for children in grades K-3, at school sites. "Today, we have about 600 tutors, mainly U of M students, and work with almost 3,000 kids. We provide training for tutors and host monthly sessions with them to find out how things are going." "One thing we learned was that many lower income schools didn't have enough books in their libraries," Miller states. "And many of the kids came from homes that don't own any books." To remedy this, the College of Education started a fund called the Giving Circle, which directly supports the tutoring program. Gifts help the schools purchase books and provide transportation for tutors. "Anyone can give to this fund, but our faculty and staff have been particularly interested in it," said Susan Oswald, a development officer in the college. "Even the smallest gift makes a difference: just $5 will buy a book." Not surprisingly, the relationship that develops between tutors and children goes far beyond reading. "Studies indicate that one caring adult can help a child set goals and succeed," says Miller. "At last year's picnic, an annual event for people in the program, one little boy stood up and said that his tutor is the greatest person in the world, I love him.'" To learn more about the program, visit http://www.literacy.umn.edu.

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