Kentucky voices

Tutor a child, change a young life

September 7, 2013 

Neil Chethik is executive director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning in Lexington.

Would you give an hour a week if you knew it could change a child's life for the better? You have a chance to do that right here in Lexington.

Right now.

As the new school year launches, hundreds of schoolchildren --most of them intelligent, enthusiastic, and curious -- are discovering that they need extra help to succeed in their classes.

And for the 22nd year in a row, the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning will offer them the support they require at virtually no cost to their families.

But we need your help to do it.

The Carnegie Center has just finished enrolling 180 K-12 students in our After-School Tutoring program. These coveted slots are offered each year on a first-come-first-served basis. As usual, they filled within an hour of their offering. We have promised each child one hour per week of tutoring for the rest of the school year. The cost to their families: $5-$60 for the entire year, depending on income.

This rock-bottom price is possible because our tutors are volunteers. They give an hour a week to change the life trajectory of a child who may be struggling to read or write, multiply or divide.

Can one hour per week really change a child's life? Consider this: studies have shown that if a second-grader is unable to read at grade level, he or she has a higher chance later of dropping out of school, abusing drugs and alcohol, engaging in criminal activity, and going to prison. Eighty-five percent of juvenile offenders have reading problems; 60 percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate.

The good news is that early tutoring helps. An assessment of 2012-13 Carnegie tutoring students showed an average reading improvement of 1.7 grade levels during one academic year of tutoring. Indeed, if we intervene early, these children can learn effectively, keep up with their classmates and eventually go to college, earn good livings, and give back to their communities.

As a tutor, you are the potential linchpin in a child's life. You don't have to be a voracious reader or a math whiz or even college-educated yourself. The Carnegie Center will supply you with the materials and training you require. You need only be a safe, encouraging person with an open heart for a child who wants to learn but struggles in a classroom of 25 or 30 other kids.

For that child, your consistent presence and focused attention can make the difference between success and failure this year, and between paychecks or prison in the decades ahead.

For more information about being a tutor at the Carnegie Center, email Carol Bradford at, or call her at 859-254-4175 ext. 22.

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