Fall has arrived, and students have returned to classrooms after more than a year of home-based online learning.
Yet amid a continuing pandemic, many parents, teachers and students concerned with learning loss have turned to the King County Library System for support.
KCLS has a long history of partnering with schools and homeschoolers, providing an array of programs to promote academic success. Prior to the pandemic, libraries hosted in-person Study Zone tutoring and other educational programs. In early 2020, KCLS moved its programs online to continue serving the public.
Since then, an increasing number of patrons took advantage of those programs and resources.
One such program, the renamed Study Zone Plus, saw a 124% jump in attendance this past summer. The program, which offers virtual one-on-one homework help for K-12 students, logged 2,259 student visits, drawing up to 90 students a day, said Annie P., Study Zone Plus coordinator.
“I’m getting inquiries from families and community groups every day about Study Zone Plus,” she said. “I expect our numbers to start shooting up even more.”
Higher demand is met thanks to volunteers, who tutor for a wide range of subjects. There are three main activities: Reading Buddies (grades K-5); Teen Talk Time (grades 6-12) and Math Club (grades K-8).
High school students can earn community service credits toward graduation, but the majority of volunteers are service-minded retired teachers, engineers, accountants and others who enjoy working with young people. They are supported in their work by KCLS staff and library resources.
“I think students are able to learn with more enthusiasm and less frustration due to Study Zone’s low-pressure and high-attention atmosphere,” said volunteer Becca K. “It’s uplifting and empowering when a student gets corrections and edits to their work in real-time, without the discouragement of being marked down for mistakes.”
Volunteers say because lessons are tailored to each student’s specific needs, Study Zone Plus enhances learning, increases understanding, helps kids to stay on track with their peers and encourages them to persevere.
“The benefit for students being able to work with a tutor one-on-one, or with one or two other students, cannot be over-emphasized,” said Richard B. “Often kids just need a nudge in the right direction to solve a problem, or a different way to view a reading assignment. When they get the insight into how to solve a problem or read a difficult passage, it’s fun to see their faces light up with a big smile.”
The program also has led to positive social interactions among kids as well as between students and adults.
“Study Zone Plus has gotten so popular that I often read with two students at a time, and they take turns reading pages and selecting books,” said Julie D., a six-year volunteer. She said two second-grade girls recently bonded over their love of Pinkalicious books, “and were having such a good time, they decided to go together to Math Club and the recharge room.”
Volunteer Hannah K. lauded Study Zone Plus for both social and academic support.
“It’s important for children to learn how to socialize and interact with others, especially when they are growing,” she said. “Study Zone Plus is a place meant to help others. All the kids are always eager to learn and we always end up with high spirits.”
Many students are so grateful for their tutors’ help, that even after college, they stay in touch.
“I love it most when students are having fun and learning successfully,” said Les D., who has volunteered for 17 years. “Study Zone Plus provides a relaxed and accepting setting that fosters the best chance for effective learning. It’s a special boon when students come back to see me and/or tell me thanks for helping them.”
“It’s extraordinary to live in a county that provides this thoughtful, alternative learning environment,” Becca K. said. “I’m also grateful to KCLS and the Study Zone Plus program for the personal growth I’ve gained. Few things feel better than helping clear a student’s confusion and brightening a child’s day!”