Tutor program set for 9th year with new coordinator

GREENFIELD — A tutoring program aimed at helping struggling young readers is heading into its ninth year — with a new leader at the helm since the initiative came to Hancock County

Leigh Ann Brechbuhl recently accepted the position of county coordinator of ReadUP, a United Way of Central Indiana program that pairs third-graders reading below grade level with teen or adult volunteers who read with them for half an hour three days a week.

Brechbuhl replaces longtime coordinator Jan Panther, who led the program at Harris, J.B. Stephens and Weston elementary schools for eight years and has moved out of state to be nearer to family.

Brechbuhl knows the program well, having served as a tutor for several years, and was a natural choice for its leader, Panther said.

“It will be nice for her to step right into that position,” she said. “She knows the routine; she knows the schedule.”

Under Panther’s leadership, Brechbuhl often filled in when a student’s regular tutor had something crop up and couldn’t attend, showing a commitment to the program and the students it serves, Panther said.

Brechbuhl said she looks forward to leading the group of volunteers, though she said it will be a challenge to take over for her mentor.

When ReadUP began in the Indianapolis area a decade ago, United Way targeted the third grade, when students take two standardized tests, the ISTEP and the IREAD-3 assessment, which determines whether they may advance to fourth grade, said Harris Elementary School principal Jan Kehrt.

ReadUP begins the first week of September, giving teachers a chance to assess students’ reading skills and select students to participate in the program, said United Way of Central Indiana volunteer coordinator Jeannie Roberts.

The program requires between 100 and 130 volunteers a year, including alternates, to tutor the 60 students — 20 at each elementary school — in the program, Panther said.

Each tutor reads with two students a week, helping them to gain confidence in reading skills including sounding out words, looking up words and reading aloud and silently, officials said. By the end of the school year, the students receive 50 hours of reading help, Roberts said.

And it shows in students’ confidence — and their test results, officials said.

More than 90 percent of students enrolled in ReadUP pass the IREAD-3 test, Kehrt said; that’s higher than the rate of third-graders not enrolled in ReadUP, which falls slightly under 90 percent, she said.

“It’s been a fantastic program,” said Greenfield Central Community School Corp. superintendent Harold Olin. “The numbers tell the entire story. The last three years at Harris, 100 percent of students have passed (the test).”

Students who participate in ReadUP start out reading at a first- or second-grade reading level, and by the time they complete the program, they gain self-confidence and cultivate a love of reading, Kehrt said.

How to sign up

United Way of Central Indiana seeks volunteer tutors for ReadUP, a third-grade reading improvement program.

Volunteer tutors must:

  • Undergo a background check
  • Commit to one hour a day, three weekday mornings

Tutors may:

  • Sign up with a co-tutor and split volunteer days

Online registration is open now at uwci.com/readup. 

For more information, contact Jeannie Roberts at jeannie.roberts@uwci.org.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.