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Emerging Readers


Become a Reading Tutor

By Rebecca Buckley

What do you like to do in your spare time? Every week in schools all over Oakland, over 120 dedicated volunteers take time to tutor primary grade emerging readers in 19 Succeeding by Reading Clinics.


Over 60% of third graders in Oakland public schools read below grade level. Students learn to read in primary grades so that they can read to learn, starting in third grade and beyond.  Students who fall behind in reading skills can rarely catch up on their own. Many of these students drop out of school before completing high school, which severely limits their opportunities for adult employment and continues a generational cycle of poverty.


In response to this need, the Succeeding by Reading (SbR) program trains volunteer tutors to provide individualized literacy instruction to struggling 2nd and 3rd grade students in under-resourced public schools in the East Bay. Succeeding by Reading is an initiative of Faith Network of the East Bay, an Oakland-based non-profit dedicated to developing community support for under-resourced public schools.


This year, SbR served 295 students through the efforts of 130 volunteer tutors. Many of our tutors are members of faith-based congregations and community groups in the East Bay, people of faith and good will who desire to effectively invest their volunteer time and attention in ways that benefit the wider community.


What does this look like? Let’s follow a Succeeding by Reading clinic staff coordinator to a school classroom where she pulls out three second graders to come with her to the reading clinic. The students give a little cheer, and another student asks if he can go too. We return to the classroom where the clinic is held, and the students join their volunteer tutors.


We watch students and tutors chat excitedly about what they did over the weekend before turning to a box of sight words. One student declares that this is going be her last week with this box and next week, she’s going to be ready for the next box. A few minutes into practicing sight words, the student asks the tutor if they can continue reading Ten Apples up on Top, and the tutor promises that they will save twenty minutes at the end of the session for the book.

Succeeding by Reading Program Highlights:

  • Succeeding by Reading Clinics currently serve 2nd and 3rd graders at 19 schools

  • Over 120 trained, screened volunteers tutor at reading clinics weekly

  • About 75% of our tutors have served two years or more

  • About 300 students received tutoring this past school year

  • Succeeding by Reading staff assess students at the beginning of the year to determine their reading level and starting places for tutoring

  • Students are post-tested at the end of the school year; program data over multiple years shows 70% of clinic students gain two or more grade levels in reading proficiency by the end of the school year

Emerging readers excel—thanks to the attention and support they receive from their tutors.  Additional volunteer tutors are still needed for this school year!


For more information and to volunteer, contact Rebecca Buckley, Succeeding by Reading Director:, or contact the Faith Network office at 510-836-5100.

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