Carla Waltower, an eighth-grader at Adams Junior High School, never liked reading that much. But now it's her favorite subject, thanks to a program called Time to Read.
Sponsored by Time Customer Service Inc., Time to Read tries to enhance reading skills among middle school students. The program recruits volunteers as reading tutors to help students improve their comprehension, information gathering and topic discussion.
"I read more than I did before," Carla said. "It has helped me a lot by teaching me how to understand what I read better."
Carla, who is beginning her second year in Time to Read, said the program has strengthened not only her reading skills, but also her self-confidence when reading.
"Sometimes when I read, I know the word I want to say but I just can't pronounce it," Carla said. "(The program) has taught me not to be afraid to sound out the word and to break it down into syllables."
The program, started in 1990 with a $52,000 grant from Time Warner Inc., of which Time Customer Service is a subsidiary, works in cooperation with the Hillsborough County public school system and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. This year, 11 junior high schools and 146 tutors throughout Tampa are participating.
Each tutor completes a one-day training session that teaches various reading strategies and motivational methods to pass on to students.
Max Lenhoff, a retired builder and developer who is a Time to Read tutor, said one of the things he likes most about the program is watching the children enjoy what they are doing.
"It was a program I thoroughly believed in," Lenhoff said. "It was very gratifying to see the kids improve not only in their reading ability but in their self-confidence as well."
According to evaluation forms completed by students, the program helped 75 percent of the 800 middle and junior high school students in Hillsborough County who participated acquire higher skills enhancement. Additionally, 85 percent said they had improved their vocabulary.
Rebecca Clark, the Time to Read trainer and coordinator for Hillsborough County schools, said the goal of the program is to increase student motivation.
"We want to teach students to ask questions about what they're reading and to get them interested and enthusiastic enough about the material that they'll want to read more," Clark said.
She said that one of the biggest benefits is the personal attention students receive. She said it allows students to question things they might normally be apprehensive about asking in class.
"Time to Read gives children one-on-one personal tutoring, which is the kind of thing a teacher would love to do," Clark said. "It enables the tutor to work closely with her student while helping to boost the student's self-concept."
Time Customer Service supplies the reading material, which includes magazine subscriptions to any of their publications, such as Time, Sports Illustrated and People. The children are encouraged to choose the magazines and articles they find most interesting.
Volunteer your time
Anyone interested in becoming a Time to Read volunteer can contact Janelle Wade at 272-4433. Volunteers are needed at Middleton, Van Buren and Sligh junior high schools.