By Christine Volker
Twice a week during the school year, the Richmond Public Library offers free homework assistance to students in grades K – 6. Over two hundred children have benefited from the program this year.
We sat down with Christina Nypaver, Children’s Librarian, to find out more.
For how many years has the Library held Homework Help sessions?
More than ten years.
What exactly is the type of help offered? Why is it necessary?
More homework is being assigned by teachers. Many of the children in our community come from homes where the parents do not speak English well, or at all, and where parents cannot afford money for tutors. We are hoping to break a cycle of language and literacy barriers holding people back.
The adults volunteering at Homework Help assist students in understanding their homework assignments, help with sample questions and explain the thinking behind the solutions to problems. The students are responsible for actually completing the homework. The homework can involve math, grammar, or any other subject.
Homework Help is offered for a total of five hours a week.
How many volunteer tutors are helping?
Currently we have nine volunteer tutors. Some of the tutors come one day per week and others are here both days. Not all kids come every day. Sometimes we’ll have 20, other days, 35. I like to aim at a ratio of 2-3 students per volunteer.
What future plans do you have for Homework Help?
It’s been a very successful program. We’ve had students come back years later, telling us how much the Homework Help program assisted them. We’ve also had teenagers volunteer to tutor younger children because they were inspired by what a difference the tutors make in children’s lives. So we will definitely repeat it in the fall.
I’m also excited about a summer program we’re planning which will give many children the opportunity to strengthen their reading skills and keep those skills growing. Summer break can represent an academic backward slide for any child, but it can be especially damaging for children who are already struggling to keep up in school.
Please tell us more about that summer program.
We’re calling it “Richmond Reading Heroes”. Sometimes by reading well, you can help someone else. That makes you a hero. The program will be open to children going into grades1 – 5 in the fall. We are especially interested in helping children who do not already have a grown up available to read with them in English, either because of language barriers or literacy issues.
Students participating in this program would read with a volunteer tutor for thirty minutes. Currently, we’re planning to offer the program two days per week. A children’s librarian will be available to help the children in choosing a suitable book to read with the tutor. Given the individual attention needed, the half-hour appointments will be formalized, with sign-ups at the Children’s desk.
We’re looking for outside funds, hopefully from the Friends of the Richmond Public Library, to purchase additional easy reader books for this program, which then would make their way into the permanent collection in the fall.
Richmond Reading Heroes will start on June 16 and take place Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from 3 to 5 PM, continuing until August 14. Children in the program will be encouraged to enter our summer reading game, where they can make additional reading accomplishments and earn prizes.
Sounds like you’ll have a busy summer!
I look forward to coordinating this program and helping to connect students with the caring adult volunteers who make such a huge difference in the children’s school success and in also in the children’s aspirations for the future. I like the name “Reading Heroes” very much, because to me, our adult and teen volunteers are real heroes, generously donating their time and talents to improve the lives of local children and strengthen our community.
I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our Homework Help tutors, some of whom started working with us last September, and also those who have been with us for many years.
We certainly couldn’t do without them!
Some volunteers prefer to remain anonymous, but the results of their efforts continue to shine!
Please contact Christina Nypaver at 620- 5495 if you would like to volunteer for Richmond Reading Heroes and help kids improve their reading skills this summer. (Volunteers may participate for two hours, one or two days per week).