Nonprofit Gives Away Books, Continues Tutoring During Pandemic

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Outside of Fair Haven School, volunteers from New Haven Reads handed out free books with free school lunches Monday.

“We distribute about 110,000 books every year,” said Kirsten Levinsohn, executive director of New Haven Reads.

It’s one of the ways the nonprofit promotes reading, especially during the pandemic. Year-round, they collect used books for their BookBank, where other non-profits and students like Corrine can have them.

“I like how we can take books home to read,” said Corrine, a fifth grader at Nathan Hale School. She’s a fan of comic books and since kindergarten, she’s gotten superhero help from New Haven Reads. She says she’s also gotten better with shyness that slowed her down.

“I was before but now I’m much more confident and better,” said Corrine. “I’m getting better at it.”

She’s one of nearly 600 kids getting free one-on-one tutoring with 400 volunteers.  Many students who start are below their reading level.

“Seventy percent of our students improve a year or more in their independent reading level, between when we test them in the fall and when we test them again in the spring,” said Levinsohn.

Corrine and her tutor Becky Spargo made the switch to online sessions when COVID-19 hit.

“I think it’s really important not just for me but for all the tutors and students to stay connected at a time like this,” said Becky.

Corrine’s mom Teneisha Dubose is thankful Spargo was able to help incorporate the school’s distance learning assignments into their tutoring sessions.

“They’re getting their homework through a Google Chrome document, and it’s very hard for the kids with the homework because they can’t see the presence of a teacher,” said Dubose.

During the pandemic, New Haven Reads lost about 400 students. The reasons why may vary, but they’re working on getting students laptops to help improve access to online sessions.

“We’re working on getting more back for the summer when they won’t have to do school work,” said Levinsohn.  

She says they’re also waiting to see the financial impact of COVID-19.

“Our budget is about $1 million and we’re very concerned about what this pandemic is going to do to our funding sources,” said Levinsohn.

Corrine and her mom hope New Haven Reads, which is now in its 20th year, will continue to help those who need it.

“They’ve been very, very good to my daughter,” said Dubose. “She’s gonna stay as long as she can stay.”

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