Perhaps the most pressing challenge that schools face is that of ensuring that all children become competent readers. Young children who experience problems in reading quickly fall behind their more skilled classmates in their ability to decode and comprehend text. This gap in reading skills can emerge as early as first grade-and, once present, tends to be quite stable over time (Stanovich, 1986). First-grade teachers can predict with some confidence, for example, that those children in their classrooms with significant reading deficits by the end of the school year will very likely have continuing difficulties in reading in the fourth grade.
While the long-term negative impact of poor readers can be enormous, the good news is that schools can train their own students to deliver effective tutoring in reading to younger peers. Kids as Reading Helpers: A Peer Tutor Training Manual is a complete package for training peer reading tutors. Peer tutoring answers the nagging problem of delivering effective reading support to the many struggling young readers in our schools. Furthermore, peer tutoring programs can improve the reading skills of tutors as well as tutees (Ehly, 1986) and - in some studies-have been shown to build tutor's social skills as well (Garcia-Vazquez & Ehly, 1995). Young children tend to find the opportunity to read aloud to an older peer tutor to be quite reinforcing, adding a motivational component to this intervention.