Tutors Bridge the Gap

 Bridging the Gap tutors at Garfield Elementary School.  Photo by Alex Frederick.

Bridging the Gap tutors at Garfield Elementary School.  Photo by Alex Frederick.

By Angela Iovino and Alex Frederick

“Can we read this book?”The seven-year-old looked up with beaming eyes and pointed to a green-covered book all about worms, butterflies, and caterpillars. It was the child's first introduction to such creatures; his tutor picked up the book and started the strategy of walking him through the pages and looking at each photo first, helping the child grasp the story before he tackled the printed words. Mekhi sat closer to the tutor and could not hide his delight as the Tuesday ritual of 30 minutes of one-to-one tutoring began.

For three years Burleith residents have joined neighbor Angela Iovino, coordinator of the Bridging the Gap tutoring program at Ward 8’s Garfield Preparatory Public Elementary School, helping children learn to read. “It is all about the children. The activities allow you to socialize and be silly while you’re working on reading fluency and comprehension, introducing new vocabulary, practicing sentence writing, or just listening to their concerns,” says Angela, who has been at Garfield for five years.

This team of Burleith and Virginia residents has become part of the Garfield family. It is not unusual to see a tutor met with hugs and smiles by excited children as she or he walks down school corridors festooned with slogans of encouragement and empowerment to the lunchroom where work commences. Principal Kennard Branch and assistant principal Bernard Terry depend on the tutors for important intervention to advance the students’ abilities to negotiate language and prepare them for high school. Ward 8 has always had the highest rate of high school attrition but that is changing, due in part to the buy-in of caretakers and families. Currently, 38 percent of underprivileged children in DC graduate from high school. Councilmember David Grosso, a proponent of education reform, says, “Every zip code must graduate children prepared for college.” However, it takes a village.

“I read for the first time on my own and finished a chapter book by myself,” Mekhi reveals to his tutor. Eureka! Through the tutor and student’s work together and growing relationship of trust and care, the student has, on his own accord, begun the important work of reading independently. This is the kind of magic the Bridging the Gap program is all about. Burleithians have been generous in joining the tutoring program, donating books for the annual book fair, and welcoming some graduates of Bridging the Gap to the Burleith annual picnic.

Please contact Angela Iovino at amiovino@icloud.com if you are interested in spending one day a week providing friendship and reading skills to a child 7–11 years of age.