Azusa Reads Celebrates 10 Years

by Karla Shirvanian '10

Azusa Reads celebrated 10 years of promoting literacy in Azusa. A collaboration between Azusa Pacific University's Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research, the Azusa City Library, and the local community, the program offers free tutoring for students in grades K–5, with 200-250 students participating weekly.

What began as a small program in 2000 with only 10 volunteers now has more than 20 APU students serving four different programs: Azusa Reads, Azusa Writes, Azusa Counts, and Azusa Calculates. For four days each week, APU students are available for 30-minute tutoring sessions with local youth at the Azusa Library.

The 10th anniversary was commemorated at the year-end celebration on April 27 at the Azusa City Library, where participants, parents, tutors, and supporters came together in appreciation for the impact the program has had in the community.

"I like to learn how to read and write new words. And I like math."—Francine, 6 years old

Tutor Mary Martinez, freshman at APU, greeted the kids as she served strawberries, veggies, and cheese and crackers. "I like being able to work with kids—giving time and effort really means a lot to the kids. Seeing them brightens my day," she said.

On site to acknowledge the program and its participants were APU President Jon Wallace, DBA, Azusa Mayor Joseph Rocha, Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) Superintendent Cynthia Cervantes McGuire, and Miss Azusa Christina Alcaraz.

"The goal of education is to build on the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic," said Wallace. "These programs lay the foundation."

Cervantes took time to thank guests for their support of Azusa Reads, Writes, Counts, and Calculates, and talked about the importance of community programs like these, as well as the significance of tutoring other students. "Just as important as the ability to help someone read, is the importance of connecting younger and older students for mentorship," Cervantes said.

Student participants ran excitedly to and from booths on the plaza, partaking in snacks, picking up their certificate of completion, checking out the Azusa bookmobile, and sharing with one another the free book they each received for participation.

"I like to learn how to read and write new words. And I like math," said Francine, a six-year-old participant.

Her mother, Juliet Garcia, said Francine is now reading at a fourth grade level as a result of her time with the Azusa Reads tutors. "She's reading more and more. It's helped with comprehension. This is a wonderful program."

In 2010, more than 290 students participated in Azusa Reads, Writes, Calculates, and Counts. The students who participated this year came from 36 schools in and around Azusa. In the 10 year history of the program, more than 1,580 students have participated, with an estimated 7,145 hours of free tutoring, equivalent to an estimated savings of more than $57,000.