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America Reads/America Counts

Terrific Federal Work Study Opportunity

Federal Community Service continues to expand at SWOSU. "America Reads" is a program promoted by the federal government to use university Federal Work Study (FWS) students as reading tutors to help children improve reading skills.

The goal of the program is to get children to read well by the third grade. One element of the program is measurement of levels of literacy according to students' grade levels. There is pre-testing and post-testing according to well-established national criteria. In 1994, 40 percent of fourth-graders failed basic reading skills tests. Eighty-five percent of adjudicated juveniles are functionally illiterate (cannot read) and 40 percent of minority youth are as well. Sixty percent of all people incarcerated are illiterate.

If you are interested and have been awarded financial aid including Federal Work Study, check with Student Financial Services in Room 224, Stafford Building about information on participating in the "America Reads" program.

FWS student tutors will receive paid training, and prior tutorial experience is not required. It is, however, very important that the FWS reading tutors have adequate reading skills. Every effort is made to work around the students' class schedules when assigning tutoring matches.

Federal Work Study and the America Reads/Counts Challenge

On July 1, 1997, the U.S. Department of Education encouraged Federal Work Study students to serve as reading tutors by waiving the requirement that employers pay part of their wages. In just one year, more than 1000 colleges and universities joined the America Reads/Counts work study program, including Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

What is work study?

The program provides undergraduate and graduate students with part-time employment to help meet their financial needs and give them work experience, while helping the campus or surrounding community. The students might work in their university's library, cafeteria, laboratories or other needed areas of campus.

What is the America Reads waiver?

Generally the employer pays at least 25% of the student's wages, and the work study program pays the rest. Under the America Reads/Counts waiver, the federal government pays 100% of the wages of work study students who serve as reading mentors or tutors to preschool and elementary school children. The wages of these tutors can be credited toward the institutions requirement that 7% of work study funds be used for community service.

What is the new family literacy waiver?

Research shows that children, whose parents work with them on language and literacy skills during early childhood, become more successful readers. As the parent is a child's first teacher, the America Reads waiver was extended, on July 1, 1998, to include students who tutor in family literacy programs. These programs provide services to children from infancy through elementary school and their parents or caregivers.

What training do work study tutors receive?

Southwestern Oklahoma State University provides training through the local school district. Ongoing during the year, ideas are shared with tutors for new ways to interact with the children and how to succeed in the ultimate goal of helping them progress in skill competence.

What is the new America Counts waiver?

The Federal government has also expanded the Federal Work Study Waiver to include mathematics tutoring. Effective July 1, 1999, the federal government has paid 100% of the wages of work study students who serve as mathematics tutors to first through fifth grade school children. This new waiver enables college students who have an affinity for mathematics and science to gain valuable work experience as tutors while taking an active role in improving student achievement in mathematics.

Mathematics is a key to opportunity. To stay on track for college and promising careers, today's students must achieve to high academic standards. Unfortunately, many of our nation's young students are not currently performing at this level. While national math test scores are slowly rising; far too many of our students continue to struggle. And, in international assessments, the United States does not compare favorably.

One means of helping students improve their mathematics achievement is to provide them with personal attention and additional learning opportunities through tutoring and mentoring. Caring and dedicated adults can make a difference in young people's lives by helping them build a strong mathematical foundation that will leave the doors of opportunity wide open.

The success and sustainability of math tutoring programs depends on the active involvement of many people. Those with an interest in this effort can, for example, serve as tutors or mentors, help with program coordination, or provide content or pedagogic guidance as appropriate to their expertise. Get involved today - you can make a difference!

For information contact Carol Wichert, Program Coordinator, 580.774.3707 located in Room 224 of the Gen. Thomas P. Stafford Center or visit the Department of Education's Web site at