Rotary clubs provide access to learning resources during pandemic

By Wilf Wilkinson, RI President 2007-2008

With more than 90 million students globally locked out of schools by the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of parents have been forced into the role of educator. Many are fearful, unsure and even feeling guilty that they will not succeed.

The Rotary Club of Belleville in Ontario, Canada and District 7070 have teamed up with the Maloney Method to provide parents with step-by-step lessons to teach children reading, spelling or math. The behavior management system is currently used widely across North America to keep student’s attention while helping them grasp key concepts.

Sharon McConnell, literacy chair for the Rotary Club of Belleville, first began tutoring local students using the Method and went on to manage the club’s early reading tutoring program. McConnell explains that her club “wanted to do more than storytelling.  We really wanted to help children in our community who were struggling with learning to read, so we sourced out a method that had demonstrated effectiveness and was relatively easy to be implemented by volunteers who were not trained teachers. We worked with the YMCA to create a tutoring program in a portable classroom known as the Rotary Club of Belleville Learning Centre. The program involved 20-30 underprivileged elementary school students who were struggling to learn to read. The tutors were community volunteers.”

There are two major tasks in teaching a child to read. You must teach them how to interpret the symbols used to make words – phonics. This is harder than it looks because some sounds look or sound alike or similar, so you must arrange them to avoid confusion. Next, you have to teach learners to blend the sounds into words. Maloney Method teaches the 1000 most common English words, of which 650 are phonetically regular. If you teach the students phonics and blending, you can provide them 650 of the languages most common words.

Sharon explains “When I managed the program, I was most impressed by the teaching method. First, the tutor would perform the task, showing the student exactly how to pronounce a sound. Then the tutor would do the task with the student, saying the sounds at the same time. When the tutor hears the student accurately mimicking the sound, the tutor gives the student a chance to do the task by him/herself.

For the tutor, every step in every task of every lesson is written out. The tutoring instructions are easy to follow. I taught and managed the program for several years and we were able to help every student who enrolled.”

District 7070 has worked with the Maloney Method to make these lessons available to Rotary members, their families and friends. Maloney Method has added several hundred free lessons to their website for all parents, teachers and therapists as long as the pandemic lasts. To learn more and access the free resources, visit District 7070’s website or the Maloney Method.

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