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Twin Cities coalition launches literacy tutor initiative

MINNEAPOLIS — A coalition of organizations, businesses leaders and educators is launching an initiative to provide better-trained volunteer literacy tutors for students in hopes of closing the achievement gap in Minnesota.

Former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, who leads the Generation Next partnership, addressed the initiative this week during a news conference. He said many dedicated volunteers already are reading to children in the Twin Cities, but they often lack the training they need to impact a student's literacy skills.

"It's not because people aren't helping," Rybak said. "It's because we are not doing enough to support those who are helping our kids."

The coalition's "Gen Next Reads" initiative will pair volunteers with local literacy groups that have been working to improve the training of reading tutors, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. Those groups, which include the Minnesota Reading Corps, the East Side Learning Center and the St. Paul Public Library, are now using a new assessment tool developed at the University of Minnesota to track students' progress.

Rybak said the work of Jaleesa Morris, a University of Minnesota student who has tutored young students at Minneapolis-based nonprofit Simpson Housing Services, serves as an example of the academic success a student facing literacy challenges can attain when he or she has support from tutors and role models.


"I think it is important for these students all to have role models outside their immediate family, such as myself and you," Morris said. "This is work that I plan to continue."

Minnesota is among the states with the worst achievement gaps between poor and minority students and their classmates.

Although school accountability measure released Tuesday show that many Minnesota schools have made progress in closing the achievement gap, many schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul are still struggling.

"We are not where this community needs to be in literacy. We are not close," Rybak said.

Generation Next will work over the next several months to find and train literacy tutors for "Gen Next Reads."

"We need trained volunteers with phenomenally high-performing organizations looking in the eyes of a child saying: 'I believe in you,' " he said.

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