Tuscaloosa’s Reading Allies looking for volunteers

Photo courtesy of Reading Allies

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Emilee Boster

Want to get involved in the Tuscaloosa community? Reading Allies, a program that works to improve local elementary students’ reading skills, is looking for volunteers who can work with students for 30 minutes each week. 

“The program is absolutely amazing, and it works,” said Reading Allies Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Toney. “You really can help a child who is struggling to read.” 

The program plans to work with 360 first- through third-graders in 12 elementary schools in Tuscaloosa City Schools and the Tuscaloosa County School System, so they are aiming for 700 volunteers. 

Reading Specialists, retired or part time teachers who have completed Reading Allies training, assess struggling readers who will be in the program before one-on-one tutoring begins. These specialists create personalized material for each Reading Allies student. 

Students will meet with their volunteer 20 times throughout the 10 weeks. At the end of the semester, the goal is for students to be reading at their grade levels. 

“With the way the program is set up, you don’t have to have any experience,” said Gina Johnson, a Reading Allies volunteer. “Making a difference is the thing that has kept me coming back.” 

Johnson said she worked with two students this past spring. Both students started the program struggling to read and were reading below their grade level, but by the end of the semester, the students had improved and were reading at their grade level.

“What we have built with Reading Allies as a community is so special because every time a volunteer works with their same child over the course of 10 weeks each semester,” said Reading Allies Co-Director Claire Stebbins. “Those kids really hone in, listen and are so excited to learn.”

The program begins the week of Sep. 12 and runs through the week of Nov. 28. Volunteers are required to attend an orientation training via Zoom Sep. 12. 

People interested in volunteering can fill out a form here

Both systems are currently funding Reading Allies through their COVID relief money, which runs out at the end of next year. You can support the nonprofit financially by giving to the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation.

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