Indiana State University Newsroom

Sycamore Readers: ISU students help Vigo County students read

January 5, 2009

Tyler Brown sat hunched at a table with Ben Creighton at his side.

"Some bugs hum when they fly," Tyler, a first grade student read to ISU junior Creighton.

"Yeah, good job," the elementary education major responded to Brown's reading of "Umberto's Summer Day."

Twice a week, the two meet as part of ISU's Sycamore Readers program, which enables university students to meet with the elementary students and tutor them in reading at the main branch of the Vigo County Public Library and Meadows Elementary School.

"I think once they like to read, they do a lot better at it," Creighton said. "I remember when I was younger, I didn't like to read and so it kind of carried on through my academics now. I think if someone would have sat down and made it fun for me, I would have probably had a lot better time with it and I would like it more now. Hopefully, you get them when they're young and then you can build that foundation. Then they'll really like reading and they'll just keep going."

Nakeysha Brown, Tyler's mother, signed Tyler up for tutoring when he was a kindergartner, along with his older brother.

"The great thing is they both can read now really good," she said, adding that her sons now like to visit the library. "We got library cards and they like going downstairs and getting books and getting on the computer, so I think this program has helped them a lot."

Tyler said he enjoys meeting with Ben.

"I like to read the stories," he said.

Kathy Bauserman, ISU assistant professor of elementary, early and special education, said about 20 ISU students work as tutors with about 70 Vigo County school children. Half of the elementary students who come to tutoring are one year behind their reading levels while the parents of the other students think their children would benefit from extra support, she said.

"We do a post test at the end of the year and they have huge growth in their reading level, usually one and a half to two years and you would usually only get the one-year growth. We've contributed to that growth along with their work in school," Bauserman said. "I think they also gain in confidence. We work on their reading skills like their fluency, vocabulary and especially their comprehension skills."

ISU students are trained for the tutoring and use books ranging from "If You Take a Mouse to the Movies" to "Clifford the Big Red Dog" to easy chapter books to fit each child's reading level and interest. They use the books to teach vocabulary, comprehension, phonics skills and increase reading fluency.

"I tell the tutors we're not just reading a story to the students; we've got to do something special, something different, something interesting," said Eunice Huang, an ISU doctoral student in education and Sycamore Readers program coordinator.

Hannah Hotseller, a junior elementary education major from Speedway, said she has found the program to be good preparation for her teaching.

"Reading's the thing that kids are going to struggle with the most, so it's a good foundation," she said. "If they aren't having problems with reading, then they probably aren't going to have problems in history and all the other subjects."

Creighton and Hotseller said volunteering allows them to become involved in the community.

"It's nice to get out in the schools and meet teachers and meet parents and meet kids, people I wouldn't normally come in contact with," Hotseller said. "It makes you kind of feel more a part of the community and like you belong."

"The three kids I have this year I worked with last year. I know their families pretty well," Creighton said. "It makes you feel more at home down here."

Melissa Kearns brings her son Jacob, who is in first grade, to meet with his reading buddy, Hotseller, twice a week. She said she has seen her son's confidence improve along with his reading.

"He gets the one-on-one attention here that sometimes he can't get at home," she said. "His teacher says that she's noticed a big improvement as well."

Nakeysha Brown said the best aspect of the program is college students working with elementary school students.

"These young students are taking out the time to teach these younger kids that it's important to learn how to read and important to do schoolwork because there's a lot of kids that don't even care about schoolwork," she said. "I love the fact that my kids like coming here on Mondays and Wednesdays. It gives them something better to do than sit at home and play video games."


Contact: Kathy Bauserman, Indiana State University, assistant professor of elementary, early and special education, at 812-237-2853 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or


Cutline: Hannah Hotseller, a junior elementary education major from Speedway, listens as Jacob Kearns, a first grade student in Vigo County, reads a story about Clifford, the Big Red Dog.


Cutline: Tyler Brown, a first grade student in Vigo County, reads to Ben Creighton, an elementary education major from Speedway.

Story Highlights

ISU's Sycamore Readers program enables university students to meet with elementary students and tutor them in reading at the main branch of the Vigo County Public Library and Meadows Elementary School.

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