Literacy by 3rd Grade Program



To help students gain reading proficiency by the time they enter 3rd grade.



That all students read at grade level and graduate high school with the skills needed to go to college and/or enter the workforce.



The Literacy by 3rd Grade Program began with a partnership between HandsOn Central California, Fresno Unified School District, and Selma Unified School District with the support of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in 2014-2015 academic school year at Greenburg Elementary School, Lowell Elementary School, and Washington Elementary School. Since the pilot year, our program has expanded 18 different elementary schools. We are currently working with 14 Fresno Unified Elementary Schools and 1 Weaver Unified School District.



With the support of the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS), AmeriCorps VISTA members serve at an elementary school. During their year of service, they develop sustainable volunteer programs and strategically access volunteer tutors into the pipeline of Transitional Kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms.


AmeriCorps VISTA members recruit, train, and place volunteers to work with struggling students to help them improve their literacy skills. Volunteer tutors are asked to commit to at least two to three hours per week for a semester. Volunteer tutors are placed in classrooms and work alongside teachers while tutoring students one-on-one or in small groups. The consistency of our volunteer tutors is what makes a difference in a child’s life. This is what makes our program unique and successful.



Since the inception of our 2014-2015 pilot year, we have seen phenomenal results. Comparison of degrees of reading powers pre and post literacy assessments results showed that children supported by volunteers improved in key areas of literacy growth such as phonological awareness, reading fluency, and comprehension. Survey research conducted by our AmeriCorps VISTA members indicated that students who received help from a volunteer tutor saw social emotional learning gains and better attendance.


Impact results from inception to Fall 2018 Semester:

  • 8,061 students have benefited from the program
  • 1,082 volunteer tutors have helped students enhance their literacy skills (75 returning volunteers) 
  • 48,074 hours have been donated by our volunteer tutors
  • 9 sustainable school sites with our newest additions: Columbia, Kirk, Muir, and Heaton Elementary Schools


English Application

Spanish Application




Voices of Volunteers:

“A student she was struggling really hard. The student went from level 1 to 5 in a matter of 1 week. That’s when I realized that what I was doing was helpful.” –Volunteer at Kirk Elementary


“There was a lot of challenges with the students in regards to the social emotional aspect. The pivotal moment was seeing how the students almost completed their sight words booklet.” – Volunteer at Kirk Elementary


Voice of Students:

“The volunteer (Mariela) helped me to learn my sight words, helped me with the tablets, helped me with learning my vowel sounds. Mariela helped me to read. Mariela was my favorite volunteer.” – Kindergarten students from Mrs. Estrada’s class (Balderas Elementary)


“The volunteer helped me with my homework and reading articles he helped me a lot.” – 4th grade student from Mrs. Hopper’s class (Bakman Elementary)


Anecdotal evidence from School Faculty Members:

“The program is really good. It helps a lot to have an extra hand to support students below grade level, or simply to reteach to one or two students that require more attention. Thank you for being part of our student’s success!” – (Teacher at Burroughs Elementary School)

“Ms. Jas has been such a great help to our classroom. The kids enjoyed her presence and interactions. She is a great individual that completed all tasks assigned in a timely manner. I would love to have her in my classroom every day. Having her running groups at learning station when she’s here has been so beneficial not only for me, but the kids as well.” (Teacher at Kirk Elementary)


“The program has proven to be a wonderful resource to our students and staff. The program has made an impact in our school because it’s currently serving 60 students in small group tutoring and several classrooms have volunteers helping them as well. The students appear to love working with the volunteers! And, they are showing reading progress under their tutelage-thank you! The program would be rated a 10-Daveon and his volunteers are helpful and appear to be making a huge difference in our struggling students, we have data that is tracking progress.” Kathy Moser- (Principal at Farmdale Elementary)


“I LOVE the volunteer program! I have a great volunteer from the Fresno State teaching program. She enjoys being with my students and I am able to train her on specific autism strategies. I am hoping she will return to do her student teaching with me!”  Janna Kam- (Preschool Teacher Autism SDC at Susan B. Anthony Elementary)

“The volunteer has helped me maintain organization structures so that class time is focused on students. She also supports students who need extra attention. She sits with students who need extra time to complete projects. Especially writing having someone who can stay with the child helps them persevere.” Pangia Yang-(Teacher at Susan B. Anthony Elementary)


“This is a great program. I welcome it at my site. My volunteers have played a major role in my students' success. My volunteers have helped students stay on task, learn their sight words, practice blending sounds, and reading. I hope this program will continue at our site.” Karrie Hovnanian-(Teacher at Susan. B. Anthony Elementary)





Made Possible by the Corporation for National & Community Service.