An intensive reading initiative is the newest addition to the Cluster Tutoring program.
Besides holding evening tutoring three nights a week, Cluster now offers a one-hour session for 13 tutor-student pairs at St. Catherine-St. Lucy School in Oak Park on Monday afternoons. The students are mostly 1st graders from the school’s after-school program.
Cluster Executive Director Kara Kalnitz had been searching for a way to offer an after-school tutoring program, both to serve the students who need extra reading help and to offer an opportunity for tutors who might feel more comfortable tutoring in the afternoon instead of the evening. But the program really came about because of the involvement of a former tutor.
The St. Catherine-St. Lucy project is the brainchild of Dave Holmes, who has been a longtime tutor and board member at Cluster. Although he’s no longer an active tutor, he contacted Kara with the idea of forming an after-school program at St. Catherine-St. Lucy, where he serves on the school’s Community Resources Board.
Dave did much of the tutor recruitment himself. Many of the tutors are affiliated in some way with St. Catherine-St. Lucy already, on different volunteer boards, and some were recruited through the online Oak Park Mom Mail discussion group. A handful are retired teachers.
The students are all chosen by the school’s teachers and principal, Sharon Leamy. “All kids need reading help, but it’s good for some kids to have specialized plans,” Sharon said.
The program is run on Monday afternoons by Kara and by Bernadette Diaz, one of Cluster’s reading specialists. Bernadette ran an orientation session for the new tutors about specific help methods for young readers. “I act as a resource for all the pairs,” she said.
Each student has a blue bin containing letters, a dry erase board, markers, and other manipulatives. Many tutors bring a favorite book that is age-appropriate to share and read together with their students.
The methods Bernadette showed to the new tutors are the same tools she has shared with Cluster tutors, especially those working with young students, such as writing vocabulary words on index cards and helping students write the new words in their own notebooks. She also gets word lists from the teachers of the budding readers at St. Catherine-St. Lucy.
“Any tutor could use these methods,” Bernadette said.