This Week at READ USA

Literacy Tutoring

Looking Back, to Go Forward

  • Read USA Inc.
  • February 14 2024

“I strongly believe that each of us – no matter how differently we present to the world – each of us, in some strong measure, is who we are because of who we have been.” -Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole

Last month, the legendary Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole – who will be our keynote speaker at this year’s Peace in the Pages event on Oct. 2, 2024 – took the time to visit READ USA Literacy Tutoring and meet with the teen tutors, teachers, and students at Lake Lucina Elementary School. During the inspirational visit that captivated the room full of budding young minds, Dr. Cole also sat down with our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly to discuss her experiences and perspectives on life, literacy – and the importance of knowing where you come from.

Of particular relevance during Black History Month, Dr. Cole reflected on her family’s legacy in Northeast Florida and the importance of, “looking back in order to go forward.”

Watch Dr. Cole address how it was not only her family who helped raise her in Jacksonville:


Dr. Cole addressed many other important topics that we look forward to sharing in the future. We are immensely grateful for Dr. Cole’s embrace of READ USA’s work in the community!

Meet READ USA’s Newest AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders

You could feel the energy at the Schultz Center on Monday night!

The READ USA team was honored to induct our second cohort of 117 – yes, 117! – AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders to a room full of parents, family members, friends, and esteemed READ USA guests, all beaming with pride!

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READ USA inducted our first group of AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders in October last year because of an incredible opportunity to diversify our funding and provide enhanced workforce development training to teen tutors through AmeriCorps.

While AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders’ day-to-day Literacy Tutoring is similar to other READ USA Tutors – working alongside students in elementary schools across Duval County to improve grade-level reading proficiency – they receive additional, intensive training to work with children who have the most critical needs. AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders are trained in Trauma Informed Care of elementary age students, and are fully equipped to help a child approach intervention calmly and with purpose.

On top of the robust workforce development training they receive as tutors, AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders receive training in citizenship (what it means to ‘give back’ and serve our communities), disaster preparation and response, CPR and first aid, and other areas. The purpose is to more fully prepare AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders for the workforce, while also providing them with the benefits of being an AmeriCorps service member: educational stipend, living stipend, volunteer opportunities, and participation in ongoing professional development trainings, among others.

We are so grateful to the parents, friends, and esteemed guests who joined us yesterday! Our special gratitude goes to Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) Board Chairman The Honorable Darryl Willie for speaking to the audience, and to DCPS Board members Dr. Kelly Coker, April Carney, Cindy Pearson, and Lori Hershey (soon to be Dr. Hershey!) for attending. We were also honored that DCPS Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar joined us, alongside several other DCPS administrators. Additionally, we are thankful for the attendance and support of members of Mayor Donna Deegan’s administration, Melissa Ross and Sheri Webber; The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida’s President Isaiah Oliver; Florida Blue’s Market Leader and Chief of Staff Courtney Harris; Kids Hope Alliance’s CEO Dr. Saralyn Grass; United Way Director of Full Service Schools Keto Porter; Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, Jacksonville Public Education Fund Board Chair Kevin Hyde and READ USA Board members Dr. Rudy Jamison and Vincent Taylor. And finally, many thanks to READ USA consultant and former AmeriCorps Director Chester Spellman for being the AmeriCorps 2nd Cohort Induction Ceremony Emcee as well!

Check out photos from Monday’s event on our Facebook page here – and please share!

We have more to share about our AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders’ journey in the future, so stay tuned!

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New Tutors: Trained & Ready to Go!

READ USA had our final Literacy Tutoring tutor training session for the spring semester this past weekend, and we are thankful for these community-minded teens who want to make a lifelong difference in the lives of elementary students across Duval County!

While Literacy Tutoring training is intensive – covering everything from lesson structure and implementation to instructional best practices and student engagement – it can also be fun! Specifically, regarding engagement, it’s not only something we teach elementary students, but it’s something READ USA also incorporates into our tutor trainings.

Engagement is directly linked to how many people’s brains learn: as you learn something, be it for the first time or to build upon what you already know, many find it helpful to either verbalize that new learning or to practice verbally.

During tutor trainings, one of the ways that READ USA leadership builds engagement among tutors is through a relatively simple strategy called “Turn-and-Talk.” This strategy serves a dual purpose: beyond engagement and physical activity, it also helps training leaders gauge existing knowledge in the room. This helps inform trainers about areas that may require a deeper dive, or, conversely, it helps them see that a majority of the room may already be familiar with a particular topic. Additionally, it models an educational best practice for tutors for interactive and engaging instruction.

Here’s how it works:

  • Trainers state a piece of information or query to the trainees in the room.
  • Trainees have one minute to stand up and discuss the piece of information with their neighbor, and then turn and discuss with their other neighbor.
  • Trainers then ask trainees throughout the room to share what they’ve learned – thereby giving an indication to trainers of the level of existing knowledge about that piece of info or query among trainees.

Check out this short video clip to see how it works:

Using the Turn-and-Talk strategy, the entire room is engaged since it occurs in pairs: everyone has an opportunity to actively listen and talk. Instead of one person raising a hand with a question while everyone else listens, through Turn-and-Talk, everyone’s immediately engaged in an activity that reinforces their learning.

This is just one strategy that READ USA leverages in tutor trainings to help ensure that everyone hits the ground running with Literacy Tutoring!

Thank you to the teen tutors who joined us this past weekend – we can’t wait to see the impact you will have on young lives!

Children’s Book: Love Grows Everywhere, by Barry Timms

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Love Grows Everywhere is a beautiful and warmly told story that teaches us that love really does grow everywhere, in all shapes, forms, and sizes.

Meet a “green-fingered” family whose diverse community is bursting with love. There are kisses from Dad, songs with Grandma, charity from neighbors, and playtime with friends. But there’s a new kid in the neighborhood who is not quite sure… Can the gardener’s daughter be brave and extend love to him? The beautiful and characterful illustrations help bring this book to life, and the gentle rhyming text helps underscore the message of kindness, charity, and love.

This warm and charming tale, perfect for Valentine’s Day and beyond, celebrates the many ways love grows to make a brighter world.

“Love grows everywhere.
Enough for all. A gift to share.
Budding, branching, leaves unfurled,
Love will make a brighter world.”

Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist

Parent Education Corner: Read-Aloud Routine

Taking part in literacy experiences at home can develop your child’s reading ability, comprehension, and language skills. Literacy experiences can also improve your child’s interest in reading, attitude towards reading, and focus. Reading aloud is one of the most significant experiences that you can provide for your child.

Here is a read-aloud routine that engages your child in asking and answering questions about the text, instead of just listening to the story:

Read-Aloud Routine

1. Choose a book your child is interested in. It should be more difficult than a book your child can read independently.
2. Ask a question about what the story might be about. For example, “What do think will happen in the story?”
3. Before reading, choose three or four words that your child may not know and talk about what the words mean. For example, “The word ‘decide’ means ‘to make a choice.’”
4. Create a signal that your child will use when he or she hears the chosen words in the story. This signal can be a “thumbs-up,” or a cheer, or anything fun.
5. Tell your child to listen carefully to the story because you will ask questions afterward.
6. Read the story and look for the signal when you get to the new vocabulary words. After the signal is given, have your child explain what the word means. For example, “You’re right! There’s our word. Can you tell me what the word ‘decide’ means?”
7. After reading the story, ask your child questions about what happened. For example, “What was the story about? Who are the characters? What was the problem in the story? Was the problem solved?”
8. Help your child make connections between the story and his or her experiences. For example, “What does this story remind you of? Have you ever felt like (character’s name)?”


Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist

Do you have any questions or ideas for the Parent Education Corner? Anything you’d like to learn? Let us know here!

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