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Retirees Bolster Kids' Reading Skills

Experience Corps pairs volunteer tutors with elementary school students who need extra help

AARP Experience Corps tutor Fred Brundage assists third graders Amy Chang, left, and Thiri Than with their reading skills.

AARP Experience Corps tutor Fred Brundage assists third graders Amy Chang, left, and Thiri Than with their reading skills. Brundage, 74, spends 15 hours a week helping Bay Area students. — Photo by Lianne Milton

There's a comfortable sameness to Fred Brundage's arrival around 9 a.m., two days each week, in Christina Harger's third-grade classroom.

The sight of Brundage walking in her Monroe Elementary School door means the handful of children at Table Two "are going to get a little extra attention that day," Harger said.

See also: Other ways to give back.

It's attention they need, and that's why Harger paired them with Brundage, 74, an AARP Experience Corps volunteer.

The white-haired retired chef and former restaurant manager from San Francisco makes his way to Table Two. Within minutes Brundage is quietly reading to the kids, listening to them read or helping them with their written work.

"I wake up and eat, shower, and I go to teach these kids at school," he said. "Retirement's not for me, I guess."

He's one of about 200 Experience Corps members who help pupils with reading in Bay Area schools. Brundage spends 15 hours a week in seven classrooms at Monroe and another San Francisco school.

"I get so much pleasure from working with these kids, especially at the end of the year when you've seen the light go on with some of them. It's really gratifying."

Success hinges on reading

Experience Corps sends retirees like Brundage into disadvantaged schools in 19 cities nationwide.

This year the 17-year-old program came under the umbrella of AARP, which links its members with pupils in kindergarten through third grade.

Research shows that attaining reading proficiency at that age is most critical to future success. Two out of three U.S. children reach fourth grade unable to read proficiently and, as a result, are four times more likely to drop out of school, according to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

AARP members overwhelmingly express a desire to volunteer, said Barb Quaintance, AARP senior vice president of volunteer and civic engagement. "This gives us a chance to do something significant for the next generation."

Next: Volunteers from from varied backgrounds. »

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