Last week I visited New Haven Reads, a local nonprofit, and it brought back many memories from 1981, when my family arrived in the US from Pakistan. The space was filled with volunteers from the community providing one-on-one tutoring for kids struggling with reading and English literacy. When I first came to the US, this is what my sixth grade teacher did for me, and it made all the difference.
I’ve written about Ms. Beckwith before. Because of her own kindness and dedication, she met with me after school and gave me individual attention to help me learn English. She had a small machine that she let me take home that taught me proper pronunciation, so that I could say words like “Wednesday” like all of my classmates. I’d always look forward to what snacks she had for me that day- often a carton of milk and some cookies. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that the help she gave me was all of her own initiative, and that she must have been paying out of her pocket for these snacks.
My wife Asma and I were amazed by what we saw at New Haven Reads. We met Kirsten Levinsohn, the Executive Director, and Fiona Bradford, the Assistant Director, and heard about the students they’re helping—most come from low-income families, and many are immigrants who are learning English. Every week over 300 volunteers tutor 500 students in grades one through twelve. The organization also has a community book bank that gives away over 130,000 books each year to adults and kids. All of their programs are offered free of charge.
New Haven Reads had just expanded into the space we visited- their fourth tutoring site. They had over 100 children on their waiting list and opening this new site helps them serve more children. It was brightly-colored, well-lit and is a very welcoming place for students to come after school.
We are so pleased to support their mission with a grant from the Tariq Farid Foundation.
Thank you to all the staff and volunteers at New Haven Reads for making a true difference for these youth! I can attest to the impact you’re having.
If you live in the New Haven area and have as little as an hour a week to spare, I’d encourage you to reach out to New Haven Reads to learn more about becoming a volunteer tutor. They provide all the training you need, and I’m sure it will be an experience that you’ll benefit from as much as the student. For more information about the program and how to get involved, visit www.newhavenreads.org.