Every child deserves the right to be able to read, yet many get left behind in spite of the hard work of their teachers. Research consistently demonstrates that when children fall behind in reading, they rarely catch up to their peers.

The Case

A child’s literacy levels at the end of Grade 3 are a more significant predictor of their future academic success than any other factor. Children who do not learn to read effectively can develop social-emotional difficulties or behavioural problems at school. As they grow older, they often end up struggling with poor health, being under or unemployed, facing poverty, and becoming involved with the criminal justice system. The cost to both individual and society is significant and far-reaching.

The good news? Research consistently shows that receiving one-to-one support from a caring adult can change the trajectory of a student’s literacy journey. Enter, the ONE TO ONE Literacy Program! 

The ONE TO ONE Literacy Program

A world where all children have acquired a passion for reading and with that, the self-confidence to propel them towards success.

ONE TO ONE’s program pairs volunteer tutors in schools with students who have been identified by their teachers as needing additional help with reading. These are students at significant risk of falling through the cracks – those who do not have a diagnosed learning disability and do not already receive support from a resource teacher, but are lagging behind their peers in their literacy skills.

The volunteer tutors, trained by ONE TO ONE, are supported with a wide range of resources and strategies for working with the students. Tutors and students meet for a 30-minute session during school time and typically read together twice a week. The tutoring provides students with opportunities to read, ask questions and make mistakes, all while having fun. They practice their literacy skills and receive personalized support in a safe, positive environment.

Schools elect to have the program and a staff member, often the resource teacher, take the lead on coordinating the program in that school. Together, the coordinator and teachers select students and then volunteer tutors are scheduled a time to come read in that school. The students are in grades one to seven, but primary students are the priority as research shows that the earlier students get additional support, the greater their chances of catching up to grade level.

There is no cost to either the school or the child involved in the program. For a list of schools currently participating, check out their website.

The Impact of ONE TO ONE Tutoring

ONE TO ONE began in a single school 30 years ago. Since then it has grown to offer the program in 230 schools across the province. In this time over 14,000 students have received support. Students, parents, teachers, and volunteers are unanimous about the success of the program. One student proudly declared, “I can read harder words and longer books that are like 350 pages!”

When teachers are surveyed, the vast majority confirm that students have improved their reading levels, comprehension, and attitude towards reading. Even more of those teachers confirmed that students’ levels of confidence had improved as a result of the tutoring. As one teacher said “The program has made a significant difference to several readers in my classroom. The one-to-one attention from such kind and positive adults alone has made an impact on the self-confidence levels of several students in my class, and the reading coaching/support has been a significant part of helping students improve their reading levels.”

But the program also has experienced success with volunteerism and literacy capacity in communities. ONE TO ONE trains over 100 new literacy tutors each year. As noted in their website:

“These individuals not only volunteer their time with our program, but they also take the skills they have learned and share them with the wider community. We believe that by engaging the community through volunteer participation, we strengthen our communities and schools, support seniors, and create important connections between our schools, parents and neighbourhoods.”

And, very importantly, each individual tutor gains from the experience. As one said “There have been many highlights as the kids are eager to learn, and each child is wonderfully unique. I am in my twelfth year of volunteering and still love every minute!”

Engaging Literacy Resources

ONE TO ONE program materials are designed to be of the same outstanding level of quality across all schools. To support tutors, book boxes, filled with a variety of books at various reading levels as well as literacy games, have been provided to all program schools. There are over one hundred books to choose from! 

Recognizing a gap in their materials and inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action, ONE TO ONE launched a pilot project this year in four schools in North Vancouver which saw forty books from Nanaimo publisher, Strong Nations Publishing, added to the selection of books volunteers can choose from for their tutoring. Many of these unique books contained Indigenous content and many more had illustrations from artist, Bill Helin. The project was supported by a grant from TD. ONE TO ONE is monitoring the results of the pilot and plan on making more Indigenous content available to more schools across the province.

The ONE TO ONE Literacy Society

Through one-to-one volunteer tutoring, we help children develop literacy skills to last a lifetime.

The ONE TO ONE Literacy Society is a registered charity and it is supported entirely from grants and donations. Each year in May, ONE TO ONE hosts an adult Spelling Bee Challenge. This innovative and fitting event will be held for the fourteenth year on May 31, 2019. The Bee is well attended, with Vancouver professionals enjoying breakfast and the light-hearted, yet competitive spelling bee. It is great fun, with participants having the pleasure of knowing the time has supported this worthy cause. For the winners, this pleasure is accompanied by bragging rights for having spelt some of the most obscure or thorny words in the English language. Last year the event raised over $64,000!

ONE TO ONE in Your School District

If you live in the Lower Mainland and wish to have the program in your school or district, contact the ONE TO ONE Office. Outside of the Lower Mainland, if your school district does not currently offer ONE TO ONE, there’s a great opportunity to join the program. ONE TO ONE works hand-in-hand with local literacy organizations in the province to deliver the program in their community, providing resources and support along the way. All you need is to have your Literacy Task Group, or other literacy organization, agree to coordinate the program. Together with the ONE TO ONE office, you provide training and roll-out the ONE TO ONE program in your schools.

If you live in the Lower Mainland and are interested in volunteering as a tutor, there are three steps to take. The first is to complete an online application form. The second is to complete volunteer screening. And the third is to attend a training session. If you want to volunteer, but live in a region outside the Lower Mainland, contact the Literacy Coordinator for your area. Names and contact information are available on the ONE TO ONE website. You can also review frequently asked questions on the website. Contact information is available on their website.