WITS values student growth, which we measure through two outcomes: reading level growth and attitudes toward reading. One way that students show reading level growth is through increased confidence that develops over the course of the school year and throughout their years of involvement in WITS programming. Through our literacy mentorship programs, students are encouraged to develop a positive self-identity. By doing activities with their mentors, like writing “I am” poems, students are able to bring this self-awareness and strength to their lives.
Starting in kindergarten, WITS becomes a part of our students’ school day. Leaving their classrooms to read with volunteers for 15-20 minutes at a time becomes a routine, and students look forward to seeing their mentors. The growth students make in one school year, especially at this early age, is profound. Program staff can see students enthusiastically reaching for books, and even reading them on their own. This past school year, Ameera participated in the WITS Kindergarten program at John A. Walsh Public School, reading with her mentor Joe every Thursday. She also attended WITS on the Weekend with her brother, and used some of the skills she practiced during WITS time to help her on a scavenger hunt at the Garfield Park Conservatory. She wrote this note for her mentor at the end of the school year.
By the third and fourth grades, students are at a critical point in their literacy journeys – they make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. With a more solid foundation of phonics and decoding words, they are able to harness that knowledge to help them tackle longer books, learning about topics that fascinate them and using books as a point of connection in their relationships with their mentors. Washington Irving Elementary School third and fourth graders headed to CME every Wednesday in the Workplace Mentoring program, where students and mentors worked on shared reading and homework. At the end of the school year, students shared their favorite parts of the program and the ways they have grown:
“I like coming to WITS every week because it has a lot of books I can chose from. I like comic books and you have a lot of those!”Bakarus, 3rd grade
“I enjoy spending time with Bakarus and reading books and learning new things about him. I always have a good time.”Steve, CME volunteer
“My favorite part of coming to WITS is working on my homework and reading with my partners. My favorite book I’ve read is Jake the Fake Keeps it Real because it’s funny.”Ja’ziaya, 4th grade
“My favorite part is seeing Ja’ziaya every week and reading with her and teaching her new words. I love being a strong mentor and supporting her in her reading journey.”Jennifer, CME volunteer
“It’s cool that I have John as a partner again because I thought I was going to have to meet someone new but I didn’t! It’s nice having the same mentor again. I like that you get to finish your homework during WITS. My favorite book I read this year is Lunch Lady because it’s very fun.”Carlos, 4th grade
“I like taking care of the kids and helping them out every week at WITS.”John, CME volunteer
Fifth grade students at Chalmers School of Excellence commuted to Boston Consulting Group every Thursday after school to participate in the Workplace Mentoring program. There – for Amir, WITS was something he had planned to sign up for after having watched his brother Antwine go the year before. He was paired with Antwine’s mentors, Cade and Will, and together, they finished several chapter books. Two weeks before the end of the program year, Amir proudly finished the graphic novel Pashmina, a story of family, culture, and self-discovery. Amir had chosen this book with his partner Will, who knew about his passion for anime and thought graphic novels might be a good idea. Amir read the entire book aloud, using expressive voice and focusing to get as much done as possible.
For Ayman, WITS has been a part of school since he was in kindergarten. Now entering seventh grade, he had an unofficial “graduation” at the last day of WITS on the Weekend at Walsh this year. He proudly mentors his younger sister, Ameera (Kindergarten student mentioned above), and encourages his peers in the program to try their best both during reading time and throughout the STEAM lessons that are the cornerstone of the program. In his own words, “[Going to WITS] makes me happy because I get to go to such an awesome place every day and learn and do things.”
Ayman demonstrates that creating a culture of literacy can go beyond student-mentor relationships. Every week at program, he shows his younger classmates that a love of reading is something to be proud of and encourages them to actively participate, “I just act like their friend. Sometimes I grab something boring and put a twist on it to make it fun.” When asked about the impact of attending WITS throughout elementary school, Ayman shared his plans for the future: “WITS has really influenced me and now I’m going to go to a STEM school for high school and I’m going to become an engineer.”