Tutors reach out to kids

Eight-year-old Kiya Dameron has turned into an avid reader this year, and her parents give Camelot’s KidREACH program much of the credit.

“Street signs, billboards, labels, magazines; she’s even picking up our books and reading through them,” Kiya’s mom Sherri Dameron said. “She wants to help me with cooking now, so she can read the cookbook.”

Since last October, Kiya has been one of 11 Camelot Elementary students who are part of KidREACH, a one-to-one tutoring program that just started at Camelot this past school year. Each Thursday afternoon, the students are picked up after school in a church van and driven to the nearby Federal Way United Methodist Church, where they spend the next hour-and-a-half with their tutors.

“We start out with a 15-minute snack and gathering time, and then each student goes off and reads with their own tutor for 15-20 minutes,” said Steve Mayor who, along with his wife Ann, coordinates the program for the church. “After that, the tutor will spend an additional 40 minutes or so in some structured activity in reading or math that will be most helpful for their student. The final 15 minutes is an educational group game of some sort.”

“One value of this program for these children is to have another adult in their life they can count on, who tells them they’re important,” Camelot principal Sharon Stenerson said. “It’s a way to help children who are struggling and haven’t found a connection in the regular school program.”

KidREACH is a three-way collaboration according to Mayor. World Vision, a Christian-based world relief agency, provides overall administration, training for the tutors and the books and other educational supplies the tutors need to work with their students. A sponsoring church provides a facility, transportation for the students and volunteer tutors. The school invites particular students to participate and provides reading and math assessment information to the tutors.

“It’s not a homework completion club, and in no way are we promoting any Christian beliefs,” Mayor said. “It is a way for a child and an adult to develop a mentoring relationship for the child’s betterment.”

The children selected for the program are ones who are below grade level in reading or math. “Additionally, their parents may be unavailable or feel inadequate to provide them with the assistance they need,” Mayor said.

“I always walk out of a tutoring session feeling better than when I walked in,” tutor Jeff Webster, 27, said. “I’ve seen my student become more confident and grow in his reading ability.”

“I was hooked after my first session with my student. She captured my heart,” tutor Colleen Davidson, 48, said. “To give a child your full attention for one-and-a-half hours each week, to develop mutual trust and respect is such a precious thing. It’s much more than just an academic-based relationship.”

“All of us need to learn to practice positive regard for other people,” Webster said.

“KidREACH gives me a chance to do that.”

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