Virtual Tutoring Helps Kids Become Better Readers

Becoming an Engaged Reader

Carson’s excitement is unmistakable to his tutor, Chris Brennan, without even seeing his face. The second-grade student is reading a book aloud over Zoom, and a passage reminds him of his sister. He gives a quick aside; they share a laugh, and he dives enthusiastically back into the story, connected to its characters and eager to find out how it ends. This is an incredible accomplishment: Carson started working with a tutor only few weeks ago as a shy eight-year-old who preferred to read silently and had to be nudged to answer questions. Now, he is an engaged reader who has already gone up several levels in just a few short sessions with Chris.

From In-Person to Virtual Tutoring

2021 marks Chris’s fifth year as a volunteer with United Way’s Ready.Set.READ! program. While she is an experienced tutor, this year with Schuylkill Valley Elementary School is different. After last year’s in-person programs had to be cut short due to the pandemic, United Way is piloting Vello, an online tutoring platform, to safely connect students with volunteer tutors. Deborah Werstler, teacher and reading specialist at Schuylkill Valley, calls it “the tutoring of the future.” Through a combination of tutor feedback and regular reading assessments, she can monitor progress and hand-place each participating student in their appropriate reading level. Each level offers a vast virtual library tailored to the students’ skills, all free and accessible at any time thanks to funding from United Way.

Students are given full control during tutoring sessions. They choose the books, turn the pages, and read aloud while the tutors follow along, ask questions, and offer help when necessary. It is a process that fosters genuine love for reading, and one that Chris finds incredibly rewarding. “I love supporting struggling students who just need that little extra push, like Carson,” she says. “You get to watch their evolution before your eyes.”

Find a Rewarding Volunteer Opportunity of Your Own

A wide variety of volunteer opportunities are available throughout Berks County. To find one that interests you, visit our Volunteer portal.