As the foundation for all learning, reading is the most important academic skill a child should master. The current pandemic quickly required that one of the most important responsibilities of society, education, be done in a way that allowed children to learn from home. The learning from home model has proved to be challenging for students, families, teachers and schools. In fact, the “COVID-19 Slide” is estimated to have caused a learning loss of nearly 50% during the 2019-20 school year” (Northwest Evaluation Association *NWEA*, 2020).
Through the Vello program, Valley of the Sun United Way was prepared to ensure children in our community would not be left behind when schools closed and families retreated to their homes to slow the spread of the virus.
Vello, an online tutoring program, pairs teams of passionate professionals with classrooms in high needs schools to provide guided reading support through a safe and secure digital setting. Together, students and volunteer tutors read e-books using simple screen sharing and audio. Volunteers participate in weekly 30-minute tutor sessions from anywhere with a computer and internet access, making it easy to do from home. Students have 24/7 access to an extensive e-library for themselves and their family members.
The new Vello approach focused on virtual reading sessions to improve students’ reading skills even while school was out for the summer. United Way continues to expand its reach nationally, and despite unprecedented changes to school models and schedules, the Vello virtual reading program has helped students engage in over 100,000 reading opportunities, providing 250 full days of fun-filled reading activities during otherwise challenging times.
- Our Phoenix-area program completed 342 guided reading sessions.
- Elementary school students engaged in 8,966 minutes of 1:1 reading tutoring.
- The Phoenix cohort completed 464 guided reading sessions, 766 quizzes, and gained an average of 0.25 reading levels, which helped prevent learning loss. Thank you volunteers!
For the last in-person school year (August 2019 - February 2020):
121 teachers across the nation engaged a cohort of 2,496 elementary school students in 87,648 books, 122,643 quizzes, and 12,845 hours of Learning A-Z reading tutoring resources—the equivalent of 214 full days of reading-related work.
As students head back to school for the 2020-21 school year, Vello is prepared to support a traditional classroom environment, as well as those students who are unable to access a traditional brick and mortar school setting.