Teaching Kids, Uplifting Communities

Studies show that 80 percent of children who cannot read at grade level by the end of the third grade are more likely to drop out of school, engage in risky behaviors and face enduring poverty. Tutoring by adult volunteers demonstrably changes the equation, increasing key literacy skills by 60 percent. There’s a crossover effect, too: Disciplinary problems drop by 50 percent, and attendance goes up by 25 percent.

The intergenerational approach of pairing adults—particularly those age 50 and older—with children seems to be a recipe for success. Older adults bring a wealth of skills particularly suited to the task. They tend to be extremely committed, patient and dedicated. In a typical program, volunteers might tutor and mentor for 10-15 hours a week.

I also believe a crucial component is the nurturing spirit that just seems to come so naturally to those older adults who choose to volunteer. It’s a true relationship, whether one-to-one or in a group setting. They are there to encourage and to comfort, to share stories and wisdom and to cheer every success. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

The end result is a win-win-win. Children learn and achieve. Volunteers’ lives are enriched. And entire school communities and neighborhoods are bolstered with a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment. The success is catching, and that’s a benefit that carries beyond the classroom.

By Lester Strong, Vice President, AARP Foundation Experience Corps

All parents want to ensure that their child has the best possible chance at success—not just in school, but also in life.

Vital vocals

Unfortunately, too many of our kids are falling behind early on. Research shows that almost 60 percent of America’s children are not ready for kindergarten, especially kids from low-income families, who, by age 4, have heard 30 million fewer words than their higher-income peers.

It’s critical that parents and caregivers talk, read and sing with their young children every day in the first five years of life so they can build their vocabularies, improve language skills and boost brain development.

Quality time

That’s why Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and The Opportunity Institute, teamed up with the Coin Laundry Association to launch ”Wash Time is Talk Time,” which will equip 5,000 laundromats across the country with educational resources for families to engage in language-rich activities that can help build their children’s brains and set them on the path to success.

Parents will have access to books and activity sheets they can use with their kids and guides that offer tips like talking about the colors of the clothes being washed, identifying different shapes around the laundromat and playing a sorting game with the socks.

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the day to help your child learn, grow and develop. Discuss what you see on your walk to the playground, look for specific objects on your car ride through town or sing a silly song to capture your little one’s attention while getting ready for bed. Keeping the words flowing and, most importantly, spending time with them engages and challenges them, shaping their brains—and their future.