As a Minnesota Reading Corps tutor at Myers-Wilkins, I’ve been amazed by the significant strides so many students make in reading. I’ve seen children transform from shy, struggling students into confident learners.

But many more need support. In fact, one in three Minnesota third-graders is not reading at grade level.

I’m one of more than 1,000 Minnesota Reading Corps tutors serving in schools and early learning centers as part of the AmeriCorps service program. I love working with Duluth's children, and I am hoping my story will inspire others to join me in this life-changing opportunity.

I started my service at Myers-Wilkins five years ago. As a tutor, I worked with preschool students following scripted lessons, including fun and engaging songs and literacy games. There is nothing more rewarding than witnessing the moment “it all clicks” for a child. For example, the excitement and pride in a child's eye when he or she is able to name and identify the letters in the alphabet is heartening.

Not only has this program helped advance my career, I will also be able to use the education award I received to go back to school.

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Reading Corps tutors use data-driven, one-on-one, and small-group instruction to get kids on track to read proficiently by third grade.

Tutors work with kids daily in more than 700 elementary schools and preschools across the state, including in Duluth. As a result of this individualized attention and encouragement, most students read at their grade level within one year.

Tutors receive extensive training and support from on-site staff. We earn a living allowance, as well as the financial award for education or student loans, plus health care and child care assistance benefits and opportunities to network and grow professionally.

I encourage anyone interested in tutoring to visit the Minnesota Reading Corps website (minnesotareadingcorps.org) to find out more about the benefits and the independent research that shows the difference Reading Corps makes. You will also see inspiring testimonies from tutors, teachers, and parents. I challenge you to discover if Reading Corps is right for you.

Reading Corps truly changes lives. It changed my life — and the lives of the young learners with whom I have worked.

Athena Hartley is a Minnesota Reading Corps tutor at Myers-Wilkins Elementary in Duluth.