LV READS Opens Doors for Children in Little Village

February 29, 2016 | Chicago, IL


David Osorio (middle) entered LV READS reading below grade level. Now in fifth grade and a tutor in the program, he is reading at a sixth-grade level. FILE PHOTO

David Osorio sits between two younger boys during a Tuesday afternoon LV READS session at Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago’s Little Village community. He patiently waits as they work on an assignment, periodically checking in with one or the other to make sure they comprehend the task at hand and to offer assistance as needed.

LV READS is a literacy intervention program that pairs volunteer tutors with neighborhood children in grades 1 through 3 who are reading below grade level. David was referred to the program in March 2013, when he was in second grade.

“I was worried because David didn’t speak very much English when he started coming to Erie House,” says his mother, Elizabeth Mendez, in Spanish. She explains that by third grade bilingual students are expected to learn content at school in English and she feared he wouldn’t find sufficient language support at home.

By fall of that year, David began to blossom as a reader—in English and Spanish—and he would progress two entire grade levels over the course of the school year. “This program helped David so much with his schoolwork, speaking English—and reading it, too,” says Mendez.

She was overjoyed by his progress, so much so that she began volunteering in the program. “I like to volunteer a little bit of my time to help the children out of gratitude for all that my children have received from Erie House,” says Mendez, whose two younger children, Michael and Diana, are current LV READS participants. David, now a fifth-grade student at nearby Corkery Elementary School who is reading at a sixth-grade level, helps out as well.

“David's progress was very much about language acquisition,” says Rachel Serra, Literacy Coordinator at Erie House. “Being in READS helped David to read and communicate in English in the same way that he could in Spanish.”

Serra oversees the READS program that began operating in Little Village in 2011, and she believes the intervention that happens at Erie House is vital to students’ academic success.

Rachel Serra

Literacy coordinator Rachel Serra provides support to Mariana Gutierrez, a third-grade student in the LV READS program. FILE PHOTO

“There is a lot of research that shows how important it is for children to be reading at grade level by the time they’re in third grade,” explains Serra. “By helping students achieve grade level, it helps alleviate some of the anxiety they might feel about school and empowers them to learn about the things they’re interested in.”

David Pesqueira, senior program officer for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Communities Program, could not agree more. “Erie Neighborhood House’s LV READS after-school literacy program is not just a program, it’s a lifeline to critical needed services in one of the city’s most vibrant communities,” he says.

The READS program receives grant funding through Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Foundation Fund, and Pesqueira indicates that he and his colleagues are proud to collaborate with Erie House. “Since 1988, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation has had a strong and extensive funding relationship with Erie Neighborhood House to build stronger communities in Chicago.”

“LV READS partners with local community schools to motivate children to read and develop a love for literature, all while working to increase literacy levels,” says Pesqueira, emphasizing the demonstrated need for intervention—only 23 percent of third-grade students are reading at grade level at the two schools with which the program partners—that motivated his foundation to get involved.

In addition to Chicago Tribune Charities, the Kinder Morgan Fund and Dollar General Literacy Foundation have also provided financial support to LV READS.

The program is demonstrating gains across all metrics. During the 2014–15 academic year, nearly three-fourths of students enrolled in the READS program advanced at least one grade level according to a reading assessment test. Ninety-five percent improved their oral reading fluency, and 83 percent mastered each of the four goals identified in their Individualized Reading Plans created at the beginning of the year.

What is more, 93 percent of enrolled students reported that they enjoyed reading more as a result of participating in the program—an outcome that makes Serra and her colleagues particularly happy.

Serra attributes much of this success to the collaborative effort that has developed in Little Village. “It’s very much a partnership between the schools and the parents and Erie House,” she says. “Who wouldn’t want that sort of partnership?” Furthermore, a dedicated group of volunteers also helps provide targeted instruction that, according to Serra, is critical to the students’ growth. “The program couldn’t exist without volunteers—we couldn’t meet the kids where they’re at and provide the variety of instruction we do.”

For more information on the LV READS initiative and other Erie House programs for school-age children, please visit


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