• Kim Piekos

Read All About It: Non-Profit Boosts Literacy Through Tutoring

By Kim Piekos

Come into the Reading Power room at the Green Bay Early Childhood Center in North Chicago, where colorful board books line tables and photos of volunteers reading with smiling preschoolers adorn bright blue walls. “Our volunteer tutors tell me this is the best hour of their week,” says Reading Power Pre-Kindergarten Site Coordinator and lifelong Lake Forester Joy McGreevy. “Spending one hour a week connecting a young child with literacy is a simple way to make a profound impact. It’s immeasurably rewarding for the child and the tutor.”

Lake Forest residents Joy McGreevy (left) and Kate Burke of Reading Power have ensured that schoolchildren in poor areas of Northern Illinois receive one-to-one tutoring. Reading Power was founded in 2003 by Lake Forest resident and educator Mary Jane Hender and former Reverend Gordon Butcher of The First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest. Since that time, more than 4,100 students have been tutored.

Reading Power provides one-to-one tutoring during the school day for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade in North Chicago, Waukegan and Zion for a reason. These communities reflect Reading Power’s mission to offer programs in underserved districts where less than 50 percent of third-grade students meet reading benchmarks. Studies show that two-thirds of children who do not read at grade level by third grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

“Reading Power is part of the solution to this problem by providing one-to-one support to the students,” says Lake Forest resident Kate Burke, marketing and communications manager of Reading Power. This work limits increasing numbers of high school dropouts that cost taxpayers nearly $300,000 over the course of their lifetimes. “Early intervention is essential. When students fall behind, the results speak for themselves,” she adds.

The program’s curriculum is research-based and has proven to be effective in reducing the risk of underachievement in reading. “Even last year during the pandemic, we saw positive impact despite unprecedented challenges,” McGreevy explains. “Despite fewer tutoring days and technology barriers, students continued to make gains and have access to new books.”

Volunteers for the program are needed now. “Lake Forest is such a generous place and so close by. I know there are many potential tutors right here in our community, “notes McGreevy. “Being aligned with an organization that is making a difference in the lives of Lake County children is a rewarding opportunity,” adds Burke. Want to support Reading Power? Find Reading Power merchandise at the Lake Forest Station Pop-Up Shop, open for a limited time this holiday season at the train station off Western Avenue. All proceeds are distributed back to the participating organization. Find details at LakeForestStation.com.