UNC Charlotte Reads

Charlotte, NC


In 2021, only 29.3% of third graders in CMS schools scored at College and Career Ready on End-of-Grade tests. That’s down from an already low 46.1% in 2019, prior to the pandemic.


Starting in 2020 as a “passion project” at UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education, UNC Charlotte Reads tutoring program combines high-quality clinical experiences with evidence-based early literacy tutoring: a win-win for both teacher candidates and students.


Reading tutors are undergraduate students, primarily juniors, in UNC Charlotte Cato College of Education. They implement Sound Partners, an evidence-based reading intervention, with students at Hornets Nest Elementary School twice per week, and tutors receive weekly coaching to ensure fidelity and consistency.

During tutoring in Fall 2021, the hope was that the 1st and 2nd grade students would increase 10 correct letter sounds. Actual growth exceeded the goal: students grew by about 15 correct letter sounds and 4 words read/minute.

There is a national movement in teacher preparation for earlier clinical experiences. UNC Charlotte Reads allows education majors to have relevant, clinical practice prior to student teaching in their senior year. “The tutoring allows teacher candidates to have distributed practice and expertise building in small group instruction and intensive reading interventions, two critical skills partner principals highlighted as a need for novice teachers,” said Dr. Sam Gesel, Assistant Professor of Special Education and co-director of UNC Charlotte Reads.

An added benefit of UNC Charlotte Reads is the deepening relationships forged between UNC Charlotte and a district school. Dr. Erin Washburn, Associate Professor of Reading and Elementary Education and co-director of UNC Charlotte Reads, said “Our collaboration is what school and university partnership should look like. Leaders at Hornets Nest see the teacher candidates as an asset and way to support their teachers and students.”

To date, the program has improved the reading skills of 32 1st and 2nd grade students at Hornets Nest Elementary School, with plans to grow.

In 2021, The Belk Foundation invested $237,951 in UNC Charlotte Reads.