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A village to read about

Partner story

Photo: © It Takes a Village / Elon University

What if students in universities supported children in public schools in their local communities to learn?

That is the question Dr Jean Rattigan-Rohr had in mind when she founded the “It Takes a Village” project 10 years ago. Operating from Elon University in North Carolina in the US, the Village Project uses a collaborative approach to engage students training to become teachers at the local universities, as well as students from other disciplines, to help children who are struggling to read.

The Village Project has seen positive results due to its unique collaborative and solutions-focused approach. Once a week, children, Elon students and trained community volunteers meet for sessions where tutors assess the individual reading challenges of the children. Together, not only do they help the children learn, but they also show parents techniques they can use at home to help improve reading skills.

“Parents want to help their children become better readers, but they might lack the skills and knowledge to do so. The Village creates a circle of influence. If university students studying to be teachers help struggling readers and their parents, then everyone learns and everyone wins.”

– Village Coordinator, Madelyn Pastrana said.

When first-grader Carmen was invited to join the Village, her mother Angela explained that she was very behind in reading because of an eyesight problem. Despite having great vocabulary and comprehension, Carmen could only read three words and lacked confidence in her ability to learn.

“The main thing that helped her with the Village tutoring was that they worked with our whole family so that we all knew how to best teach Carmen. We got a one-on-one tutor who was very committed to Carmen’s success,” Angela said.

Carmen, who soon improved several reading levels, was able to enter the second grade at the appropriate reading level and now even expresses confidence in her reading skills to others.

“It Takes a Village offers more individualised attention to students who may be struggling to learn,” says Oak Programme Officer Millie Brobston. “In addition, by supporting students and parents, the Village project is breaking down the invisible walls between the university and the local residents. This will have a big impact on the community going forward.”

Approximately 220 tutors support 250 students per year participate in the Village project, in both English and Spanish. While the village project continues to grow with the goal of improving elementary and middle school students’ reading skills, it has also expanded its services to other academic areas. For instance, “Science in the Village” offers hands-on opportunities for students to become problem-solvers in a scientific world, and “Music in the Village” teaches students how to use their voice and play instruments. Additionally, other schools such as the University of North Carolina Greensboro and Concordia University in Portland, Oregon have, in the past, partnered with the Village in its work.

“Parents attend class with their children, and are tremendously important collaborators at home with their children,” Dr Rattigan-Rohr said. “It certainly does take all of us in this village, in which we live, and learn and do our work, to make an impact on children’s lives.”

– Dr Jean Rattigan-Rohr, founder of the “It Takes a Village” project.

Check out this video to find out more.

This grant falls under the Special Interest Programme, which you can find here. Oak’s Special Interest grants cover a wide range of fields, including health, humanitarian relief, education and the arts.