Mentor Me! Assistance for Young Readers in the Library


Mentor Me

Before arriving in Chattanooga I polled several local parent Facebook groups and asked what program or services they wished their public library provided. The dominate response was “free tutoring”, specifically for beginning readers, Or, a program to help their child learn how to read. It was also a common response after I started working and casually polled parents. Since University of Tennessee – Chattanooga (UTC) is only several blocks away from the downtown library branch, I decided to create a program where future teachers working towards their undergraduate or graduate degree in education and a teaching license could receive volunteer hours for assisting beginning readers and writers. One day a week, kids ages 5 & up could come in and seek assistance with either a book or assignment they were working on in class, or choose from books in the library to read aloud from with their mentor. Sessions were 30 minutes, and covered a two hour time period after school hours. Mentor Me! was designed to be a walk-in program so that every minute was being utilized and no-shows wouldn’t be an issue.  Young patrons could gain the helping hand and confidence they needed for zero cost, and the student teachers would gain valuable in-the-field work experience. Win-win!

Mentor Me library program

Before the program started, I called elementary schools near the library and emailed a PDF of the flyer. I dropped off a stack of flyers at several nearby schools, too. I posted the program on the Facebook groups too which I had originally reached out. I talked with teachers who visit the library. Everyone was very enthusiastic about it! I was nervous I was going to have way more kids than mentors, but a funny thing happened… Hardly anyone showed. Week after week there were 2-3 regulars and a handful of kids that were there already doing homework and took advantage of the program and that’s it. When evaluating a programs worth, it isn’t about the number of attendees, but I was surprised at the turnout after receiving so many remarks about this public need. The UTC student teachers were terrific and would often engage the kids regardless if they didn’t have scheduled mentoring sessions.

The 10-week episode of Mentor Me! in the library has ended and I’m left to my thoughts. Why would a program that was championed by so many caregivers and educators have such little turnout?

Do you offer tutoring or some type of academic assistance program in your library? What is your experience with this type of program and how does it work?

I would be interested to recieve and appreciate any feedback you have!


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