by Lark Flynn-Lippert

Two years ago I became unemployed. As a worker over 50, I was not optimistic about my job prospects. Moreover, I wasn’t eager to re-enter the corporate world. Inspired by my daughter’s AmeriCorps service, I looked into local programs and learned of the Minnesota Reading Corps.


I’m now in my second year as an Elementary Literacy Tutor, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Every school day I tutor fifteen first, second, or third graders using research-based strategies to help them improve their reading skills. As a full-time Minnesota Reading Corps member I receive a modest living allowance, some health coverage, and will receive an education award of $5,550.


There are other benefits as well. I get to see talented, dedicated educators in action, and the good work of everyone who keeps the students safe, healthy, and well-fed, the building clean and beautiful, and the school running smoothly.


The kids, of course, are the very best part. It’s downright humbling to see how hard a first grader will work, coming halfway out of her chair with the effort of correctly pronouncing her letter sounds, or to see a second or third grader leaving his pride at the door to practice basic phonics so that he can become a better reader. There are the hilarious, heartbreaking, wacky, profound things the kids say, and the proud little smiles and jubilant high-fives that come with success. There’s the grace with which they accept my shortcomings.


Most of the children I serve are low income. New York Times columnist David Brooks recently asserted that poverty is a phenomenon so complex and enigmatic that it must be addressed with a flood of programs as diverse as a rain forest. Though being literate does not in itself lead to greater economic security, having a college degree can. And obtaining a college education requires reading proficiency. So I hope that my service through the Minnesota Reading Corps is like a tiny organism in that rain forest, a drop or ripple in that flood. As I read with my little charges day in and day out, I hope that, in the smallest of ways, I’m changing the world.


Minnesota Reading Corps—the nation’s largest state AmeriCorps program—and its sister program Minnesota Math Corps are accepting applications to place over 1,000 full-time or part-time literacy or math tutors who commit up to 11 months of service to Minnesota schools. See how you can make an impact—on kids and in your career.


Lark Flynn-Lippert is a tutor with Minnesota Reading Corps.