Minnesota Reading Corps looking for new recruits

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The Minnesota Reading Corps, the celebrated early childhood literacy program , is looking for 500 new recruits, and one of them could be you!

Staffed by AmeriCorps members who serve 1- or 2-year terms of service, MRC uses a slew of research-based techniques to greatly improve the reading skills of students “age three through grade three,” according to Anna Peters, MRC’s recruiting and outreach coordinator. MRC also includes volunteers, who commit to a minimum of one hour per week for 15 weeks.

“Every day is different,” said Kris Jackson, an MRC member in North Branch, MN who’s finishing her second year of service tutoring second-graders. “The kids are always excited to see you, though, and they’re happy to learn!”

MN Reading Corps: Members and volunteers
Minnesota Reading Corps MEMBERS commit to a year of service that begins in August. In addition to receiving valuable hands-on experience, MRC AmeriCorps members earn up to $4,725 to pay for college or to pay back federal student loans, a modest living allowance and for full-time members, health insurance. Members can also defer federal student loans while they serve. In 2008-2009, MRC placed 367 members in 161 schools across the state.

Minnesota Reading Corps VOLUNTEERS commit a minimum of one hour a week for a minimum of 15 weeks.

“I obviously love working with the kids: we lived in Canada for 14 years, and I ran a day care there for 10,” Jackson said.

Jackson – a mother of two, an interior designer, and a realtor – said she was surprised at how many of her fellow Corps members were middle-aged people like herself, who work from home or were recently laid off, unlike the “college-graduate-finding-themselves” stereotype of most AmeriCorps members. Peters said that despite this reputation, the Reading Corps attracts a wide range of members

“It feels great helping kids and knowing you’re making a difference,” Peters said, “but MRC is a great way to step from college to the professional working world.”

Peters said the communications skills and the intense networking a member must do with teachers to schedule a child’s tutoring sessions build valuable professional skills.

Jackson said this “networking” has been one of the hardest parts of her job – in kindergarten through third grade, students are tutored outside of the classroom during regular art, music, or gym periods.

“Sometimes, you run into a kid with absolutely no [reading] support at home,” Jackson said. “They don’t make eye contact with you, and they have a lot of trouble with the lessons.”

When faced with these students, she said, she turns to the Corps’ three levels of support staff – a coach who works with her individually on her teaching, a “site leader” (typically a principal or a teacher, said Peters) who knows the school’s problem students, and a master coach who visits the school once a month. This, she said, plus the intensive, once-a-month training she receives, helps her stay on top of her game.

Peters said MRC hopes to place over 500 Corps Members next year, serving more than 15,000 students at more than 200 schools throughout Minnesota. The admissions deadline is rolling, she said, but she urged potential Corps Members to apply as soon as possible – MRC hopes to have all teachers placed by July 1, and training for tutoring positions begin in August.

Minnesota Reading Corps members commit to a year of service that begins in August.

James Sanna (james.sanna@gmail.com) is a freelance writer, who frequently covers education issues.

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