Catawba County Library System offers homework and reading programs

Lindsay Robins
Staff Writer

Along with providing free wifi, study rooms, computers, and helpful staff, Catawba County Library System offers two programs for students needing extra help with homework and reading; Homework Helpers and Paws to Read.

The Catawba County Library Homework Helpers program enriches learning opportunities for students and increases educational attainment in Catawba County by supporting student learning through tutoring and coaching. It also increases teen engagement and supports active learning, personal growth, and leadership for teen volunteers who work with elementary students. The library acts as the facilitator and host; bringing high school student volunteers together with elementary age students that need practice reading and help with their homework.

Library Homework Helpers enriches learning opportunities for students and increases the educational attainment level in Catawba County by supporting student learning through tutoring and coaching. It is a unique project because it also increases teen engagement, supports active learning, personal growth, and leadership skills for teen volunteers-- 100% of volunteers report that they gained work experience, transferable skills, and confidence in their abilities through the program.

“Both the tutors and the kids get a lot out of it,” shared Angela Miller, Catawba County Youth Services Librarian. “The tutors are learning leadership and communication skills. The kids are building confidence and they’re seeing a person similar to them, that’s a little older, being successful. Parents call and tell us their kid’s grades have gone up and classroom performance has improved. It’s a really positive experience.”

Paws to Read is a program that allows children to hone their reading skills by reading to Russ, a certified therapy dog. Russ sits patiently with the children as they make their way through sentences, phrases, and vocabulary. Russ’s quiet and soothing support helps children build confidence in their reading abilities. The Newton branch offers four 15-20 minute sessions a week with Russ.

There is no fee for students to utilize either program but registration is necessary. Volunteers are always needed for the success of both programs. Homework Helpers provides a great opportunity for high school students to complete required volunteer hours for graduation and looks great on college applications. Paws to Read provides a great opportunity for therapy dogs that prefer working with children or one on one sessions. The Catawba County Library System has found both programs to be beneficial through quantitative and qualitative data.

“The library evaluates the success of this project using both qualitative and quantitative data. We collect statistics on the number of Homework Help sessions conducted and the number of volunteers working with students. Since July 2016 the library has been able to provide 679 one on-one sessions with elementary age students, delivering six times the number of sessions as the previous year. We also conduct surveys with 100% of surveyed volunteers reporting that they have gained work experience and transferable skills and/or gained confidence in their abilities. Volunteers and library staff have also provided qualitative data in the form of success stories. For example, one teen volunteer so loved helping the kids with homework that she has decided to pursue a career in teaching. She has loved seeing the impact of her help on the children in her homework sessions. A parent of one elementary student reported to us that in her son’s class students who received high grades on their spelling test are invited to stand in their chair to be recognized. Her son had never been able to do this, but due to his hard work and the assistance received through the Library Homework Helper program he scored high enough and was able to achieve his goal to stand in the chair and be recognized for his success.”

To reserve a session with Homework Helpers or Paws to Read, or find out more about volunteering, call 828-465-8665.