Community organization assists kids to improve reading skills

Community organization assists kids to improve reading skills
January 27
10:17 2022

Read Write Spell (RWS) is a community program based out of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church that strives to ensure that every child in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) learns to read on grade level. RWS trains tutors in the science of reading to better assist students in need in WS/FCS.

RWS initially started as the Augustine Literacy Project and their original goal was to provide one-on-one free tutoring for elementary students who struggle with reading. In 2015, the organization changed to RWS in order to add other strategic components to serve parents and public-school educators as well.

Esharan Monroe-Johnson, RWS executive director, started with RWS in 2016 as a volunteer tutor and now runs the day-to-day operations of the organization.

“I got interested in Read Write Spell because I had children that had some literacy troubles and I saw the impact that a structured literacy approach and just the foundation of all our programs can make in progressing a student on grade level,” said Monroe-Johnson. “So, that’s kind of how I got involved with Read Write Spell, because I wanted to do that for another kid.”

RWS partners with the WS/FCS to assist their elementary students who have trouble reading on grade level. RWS has also partnered with the Reading Warriors program, where they provide the training for the first-grade tutors in the program.

Currently, RWS is in 18 schools around the county. The number in previous years is normally higher, but several factors have impacted their reach recently.

“I would say that COVID has impacted that some,” stated Monroe-Johnson about the number of schools the program is in. “When I started, I think we were in 35 schools and we are normally in somewhere around 25 schools.

“Two things have impacted that. One, COVID, and the other is we are trying to be a little bit more targeted about the schools we partner with.”

Volunteer tutoring is the major component of the organization currently. Getting students to improve who are struggling with reading is a difficult task but the RWS tutors are up for the challenge.

“Our goal is to help students get on grade level reading,” she said. “We train volunteers and it’s a five-day training that is rooted in the science of reading and based on structured literacy.

“It’s a very scientifically sound, research-based approach to help students who are having difficulties with reading, so our goal is to get them on grade level. In a lot of schools and a lot of students that we work with, that takes time. Most of our students are at least one to two grade levels behind, so getting up to that on-grade level mark takes time.”

To help better their chances for success, RWS prefers that their tutors dedicate their time to the entirety of the program with a student, which lasts for a year and a half.

“We ask our tutors to commit to 60 lessons, which normally takes about three semesters if you’re looking at twice a week, and they tutor for 45 to 60 minutes,” she stated. “We ask them to do that because that’s normally how much time it takes to see progress. A lot of our tutors stay on after that.”

According to Monroe-Johnson, on average their students improve 1-2 grade levels in a given school year. However, if they are two grade levels behind, there is more work to be done with that student.

RWS is always on the lookout for more tutors. Depending on how much time they have to dedicate to the training and the children will determine what program is best suited for a potential tutor.

“We are looking in two different ways for volunteers,” she said. “For our traditional Augustine Literacy Project Program, that is a more intense program, so we are looking for someone who has five days to kind of invest in getting the training and who has time during the week, somewhere between two and four hours, when you calculate lesson planning and then delivering the lesson to the student. So that’s a more intense program.

“We are also recruiting for Reading Warriors and for Reading Warriors we are looking for anyone who has the time to commit to twice a week, 30 minutes with a student, and can invest two days, which is just 12 hours of training for the Reading Warriors program.”

For Monroe-Johnson, it’s hard for her to feel pleasure about the hard work she is doing because there are so many children in need. She says she is hopeful for the future because there are organizations like RWS that are making a tangible impact and the school system is backing those.

For more information about Read Write Spell, you can email them at, visit the website at, or call 336-779-1300.


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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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