Mike Hanson: Help pay for tutors during gift-giving season

November 18, 2018

A lot of attention has been given to juvenile crime in the greater Madison area recently. Burglaries, car thefts and some other crimes have increased.

The Madison Police Department’s West District has participated in several community forums to discuss crimes and their causes, and to field questions from citizens. At each meeting, presentations were made. Root causes, motives and means were examined and sometimes debated.

One theme was universally heard: “Why are we seeing this trend in crimes being committed by juveniles, and what can I do to help?”

While there is no easy answer, everyone from parents to social workers to judges and cops recognize the necessity to engage with young people and affirm their efforts to succeed in the classroom. So perhaps this holiday season, as you consider your options for altruism and giving, why not consider expanding your list of providing toys to kids and ponder an investment of a different sort?

Think of the value a one-on-one tutor could mean for a child. Think of an adult mentoring and instructing a child. Promoting the success and self-esteem of students has proven critically important in achieving better outcomes for kids living on the margins.

Each year, our community collectively donates over $300,000 to various charity drives for kids. Way to go, Madison! But each and every toy has a shelf life. One day the toy will be outgrown, abandoned or thrown away. Consider the long-term benefits of contributing toward the ongoing educational needs of a child. It’s a gift that keeps giving.

A host of reasons contribute to crime. But our community’s educational achievement gap certainly looms large. When a child is not provided the tools and support to succeed, the child starts to disengage and lose interest in school.

But the more kids are consistently provided opportunities to succeed, we know we can mitigate the gap on educational attrition as well as crime. Studies have documented that when our kids get more help in reading and math, the potential for success and graduation is infinitely greater.

A recent study showed that elementary and middle-school students who were deficient in reading skills demonstrated remarkable growth and acumen when provided with some relatively simple resources. By sending teachers and reading specialists into the homes and neighborhoods where kids live and providing one-to-one tutorials, the net result was profound. Research suggests that providing adult attention and one-on-one reading can foster encouraging results and promote positive relationships.

Imagine the possibilities of a program like this in Madison. What if we could reach 30 kids on the West Side of Madison alone? If we paid a dedicated teacher $40 an hour, once a week to meet with one child in the child’s home after school for 28 weeks, the cost would be about $1,120. Multiply this number by an additional 29 prospective kids, and the total cost would be $33,600. Compared to what we invest in toys, isn’t the lifelong joy and thrill of being able to read much more enduring?

As we approach the holiday season, thanks to those who make gift giving an intentional and annual event. Good for you! Now as you consider your gift-giving options, invest in our future by giving kids what they really need today.

The Madison Community Policing Foundation is accepting donations online and by mail for a newly created “community reading fund.” You can donate at madisoncommunitypolicingfoundation.org. Or label your check “Community Read” and send it to the Madison Community Policing Foundation at P.O. Box 44246, Madison, WI 53744.

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