Juneau schools looking for reading tutors

A new literacy program for young children will begin next month in Juneau schools, thanks to a $75,000 gift from Coeur Alaska, owners of the Kensington Gold Mine near Juneau.

The Volunteer Reading Tutor Program is a partnership of United Way of Southeast, the Juneau School District and Coeur.

Research indicates that children who are poor readers in the third grade remain poor readers, so the program specifically targets children in kindergarten through third grade.

The program was announced at Thursday’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon. District Superintendent Glen Gelbrich asked the crowd to imagine children in a classroom who cannot read.

“And they’re going to school every single day with kids who can and teachers who expect them to. Teachers who are doing everything they can to meet the kids where they are but for whom just making meaning from the text is a challenge,” Gelbrich said. “The gift that we can give them around literacy prevents course failure, it prevents low attendance, it prevents drop outs, it prevents poor behavior.”

Coeur’s grant will launch the three-year program in Juneau, but United Way President Wayne Stevens says the agency will take it to other Southeast school districts, if the model is successful here.

Kensington Mine Manager Wayne Zigarlick said education and helping youth are a company focus. He said Coeur believes the volunteer tutor program has great potential.

“The contribution we’ve made today is really the easy part of this process,” he said. “I’d like to thank in advance all those folks who will be volunteering their time to participate in this program. They’re the ones who will be making the difference.”

Patty Newman is Juneau School District Director of Teaching and Learning. She said the volunteer reading tutors will be working with children in the classroom twice a week in 30-minute blocks.

United Way and the district are now recruiting tutors. Newman said once volunteers have been selected, they will be trained and matched with children who can benefit the most from their time and attention.

The program is to begin in mid-October.