SJT, Clinton applaud literacy initiative

clinton President Bill Clinton announced Tuesday that one year after the introduction of his “America Reads Challenge” tutoring program, almost 800 universities have committed to the cause of teaching elementary students to read.

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was one of several university presidents who joined Clinton at the White House to commemorate the program’s success.

GW was one of the first schools to implement America Reads, which aims to eliminate illiteracy among American kids.

Through the tutoring programs, universities across the nation are hiring work-study students to tutor local kids. The students are trained to go into their communities to teach children to read well and independently.

“America Reads ensures that every eight-year-old in this country can say `I can read this all by myself,’ ” said Secretary of Education Richard Riley.

“To have had so many other institutions follow really confirms our judgment about the validity and reliability of this program,” Trachtenberg said.

At the White House Tuesday, Clinton focused on the children who are benefiting from America Reads. He told the crowd of tutors, students, educators and Congressmen that the National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that “40 percent of the nation’s eight-year-olds can’t read as well as they should.”

To demonstrate the powers of America Reads, Clinton and second-grader Victoria Adeniji, a student at D.C.’s Garrison Elementary School, performed a “shared reading” of the book “The Carrot Seed.”

Shared reading means alternating pages between a tutor and a student, something Adeniji learned in her reading sessions with Eric Castillo, her America Reads tutor from Georgetown University.

“We know that children who don’t read well by the end of the third grade are more likely to drop out of school and far less likely to realize their full potential,” Clinton said.

Clinton also thanked the thousands of college tutors around the country who are helping young children. He said programs like this one help to disprove the “superficial and downright wrong characterizations of Generation X as not caring about the future of this country.”

Eight D.C. universities are participating in the America Reads Challenge. American, Georgetown, Howard, Catholic, Gallaudet, Trinity and Southeastern universities, as well as GW, send student tutors to area elementary schools.

Trachtenberg said the college tutors benefit by helping younger children.

Through the program, the tutors receive $10 an hour, which is covered entirely by federal government subsidies. Prior to November 1996, universities were required to pay 25 percent of the students’ wages.

The president’s plan calls for “the mobilization of one million tutors for three million children in grades K-3 who need help,” according to a White House press release.

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