Search form

The Reading Team: A Handbook for Volunteer Tutors K-3

In response to President Clinton's "America Reads Challenge," many community members are becoming more involved in their schools. The International Reading Association has taken a leadership role in the effort to train community members as reading tutors. This new handbook, a step-by-step guide from the IRA, is an invaluable training tool for tutors and tutor trainers.

Reading Handbook CoverWe must do more to ensure that every child can read well and independently by the end of the third grade. The America Reads Challenge will accomplish this by marshaling the resources of entire communities -- schools and libraries, religious institutions, universities, college students and senior citizens -- to work together with teachers and parents to teach our children to read. -- President Bill Clinton


The America Reads Challenge, a bipartisan initiative launched by President Bill Clinton in his 1997 State of the Union Address, called on "all Americans to support teachersby working with students who need extra help beyond the classroom to read well." Recognizing that to be successful the tutoring effort must be a joint one involving teachers, parents, and trained volunteers, the International Reading Association made a decision to assume a leadership role in the America Reads effort. Part of that role involved the development of The Reading Team: A Handbook for Volunteer Tutors K-3.

"Teaching reading," the authors point out in the handbook's introduction, "is a complex process that must be taught by individuals who have had formal training However, teachers, [reading] specialists, and children all can benefit from the type of help a one-on-one support person can provide." The purpose of the handbook is to maximize those benefits by providing information and techniques to help volunteer tutors provide the best instruction possible.

The handbook is divided into three sections, each of which emphasizes the spirit of teamwork a successful effort requires.


The first section of the handbook provides an overview of the ways in which a volunteer tutor can contribute to a child's overall reading experience. Tutors, the handbook points out, can:

  • Actively listen to help children develop their thinking and comprehension skills.
  • Mentor ways in which children can extend their own thinking.
  • Share reading experiences and encourage children to share theirs as well.
  • Share personal knowledge and help children relate what they are reading to their own experiences.
  • Provide models of successful readers.
  • Provide immediate feedback and help children recognize, and learn from, their mistakes.
  • Remind children that it's all right to make mistakes.
  • Share their enthusiasm and help children develop an enjoyment of reading.

More specifically, this section provides concrete ways in which tutors can accomplish those goals and motivate children to increase their fluency and comprehension. Successful tutors, the handbook points out, help children extend their knowledge of the subjects they read about; encourage them to predict and retell as they read; demonstrate how to use context clues to decode; help them make sense of what they read; and connect their reading to their writing. Most importantly, this section explains how tutors can provide positive encouragement and support, thereby instilling a positive attitude toward reading in the children they work with.

The section also contains suggestions on how volunteer tutors can maximize the tutoring experience by learning about the needs and interests of the children they work with, by developing a personal relationship with those children, and by communicating with parents and teachers about the best ways to help and support their children.


The second section of the handbook provides a detailed outline for a typical 30-45 minute tutoring session. Although the section is primarily geared toward students who are already reading, additional suggestions are included for conducting a tutoring session with students who are not yet reading. The Six Elements of the Tutoring Session described here are:

  • Read Old Favorites -- to help children practice reading, notice patterns, and experience success.
  • Read Together -- to challenge children in a supportive situation.
  • Write Together -- to encourage children to think about how words are put together to create a message.
  • Read for Enjoyment -- to provide practice and promote fluency.
  • Talk About Words -- to help children recognize patterns and promote decoding skills.
  • Summarize Success -- to help children describe and evaluate what they are learning.

In this section, each step of the learning process is explained and modeled. For each of the six elements, tutors are first given an explanation of the goals of that element and then provided with a step-by-step script they can follow to achieve those goals.

For example, the What To Do section of Read for Enjoyment, tells tutors to:

  1. Select a book for yourself and ask the child to choose a book.
  2. Show each other the books that you will be reading.
  3. Take turns discussing what you think the books are about.
  4. Read silently for three to four minutes.
  5. Take turns talking about what you have read.
The section also includes a list of materials needed for each session, a "Rule of Thumb" for choosing appropriate reading materials for a particular student, and additional suggestions for making the tutoring session more valuable and enjoyable.


The final section of the handbook stresses the importance of evaluating the tutoring experience, both in terms of the student's progress and in terms of the tutor's role in contributing to that progress. The handbook provides suggestions for ways to record and assess student work, including portfolios, journals, lists of books read, and audiotapes of the child reading. It also includes specific tools tutors can use to evaluate various aspects of the tutoring process, such as a

  • Motivation Interview to determine how the sessions affect the child's enjoyment of reading.
  • Ratings for Oral Reading Fluency Scale to evaluate the child's reading fluency.
  • Story Retelling and Rewriting Form to assess the child's comprehension.
  • Tutor's Self-Evaluation Form to evaluate the tutor's degree of success and enjoyment.

This section also provides additional activities to help tutors vary and extend the tutoring process. Each group of activities is geared toward developing specific skills. Helping Children Work with Words, for example, includes suggestions for creating and using word cards, for writing messages in the child's journal, and for encouraging the child to search for "environmental print" and look for words he or she would like to learn. Suggested writing strategies include webbing and mapping, while puppet shows, art activities, and creating commercials are suggested as activities for increasing the child's enjoyment of reading.


The foreword to The Reading Team: A Handbook for Volunteer Tutors K-3 states that "confidence and competence go hand-in-hand in learning to read well enough." The same might be said for many endeavors -- including volunteer tutoring. This comprehensive, detailed, easy-to-read handbook provides both in abundance. Even the most inexperienced tutors cannot help but succeed with this manual as a guide. No school that utilizes reading tutors should be without a copy!

The Reading Team: A Handbook for Volunteer Tutors K-3, written by Leslie Mandel Morrow and Barbara J. Walker, was published by the International Reading Association. To order the book, contact the Order Department, International Reading Association, 800 Barksdale Rd. PO Box 8139, Newark, DE, 19714-8139, call 1-800-336-READ, Fax 302-731-1057, or visit their Online Bookstore.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 1999 Education World

Related Articles from Education World