Expectations and Rewards

For Our Mentors

Readers Are Leaders promotes education, leadership, sportsmanship, and citizenship for all of our student-athletes. We encourage all mentors to maintain a high standard of academic achievement not only during the season but throughout the school year.

To meet this goal, our student-athletes are challenged to develop the work ethic, discipline, and commitment that are the foundation of academic success. We strive for a 100% success rate in the academic performance of our mentors. We also set high standards for personal growth as we work to develop in our young men and women the character necessary to step into a role that requires integrity, social responsibility, compassion, perseverance, and accountability.

To be successful mentors, our student-athletes must understand that mentoring is a commitment to a relationship between each of them and their reading partner. They must focus on developing the character and capabilities of their partner, while leading by example and doing their best each day as students, athletes, and members of their community.

It is difficult to measure how much our student-athletes grow—often they grow and are rewarded in unexpected ways. Initially, they expect that their work in Readers Are Leaders will help to support their team with some of the funds necessary for such things as tournaments and equipment.

What surprises them is the bond that develops with the kids they mentor; how much they value the sense of service and commitment that has taken root by helping someone in need; and that by helping others to enjoy and value reading and to work toward academic success, they have strengthened their own commitment to academics and their community.

They learn that by becoming mentors, they have become part of a team with their coaches, reading specialists, teachers, counselors, and administrators. At the reading table, their one-on-one success is not about putting points on a scoreboard, but about improving reading scores and seeing young kids grow in positive ways as they work to overcome difficulties and strive to become academic all-stars.

For Our Elementary Students

Readers Are Leaders has five underlying goals that we use to survey the attitudes of our young readers: the enjoyment of reading in school, the enjoyment of reading in their free time, a sense that they can learn new things when they read, a realization that people other than their teachers encourage them to read, and a belief that reading is an important life skill. We also hope that because others have reached out to help them, they will come to understand and appreciate the commitment to service and, as they grow and mature, will reach out to help others.

Although the primary focus of our program is to boost reading skills, there are often other significant benefits that arise from the mentoring relationship. Many of our at-risk readers not only struggle with the process of reading but also suffer from a negative attitude toward reading. Sometimes the negative attitude is caused by weak skills and the struggle to read; sometimes reading is simply seen as uninteresting, unimportant, or un-cool. If this attitude persists, academic success often becomes unimportant, and kids will become bored, fall behind, and won't commit the effort to develop their talents. Our mentors often break through this resistance and spark an interest and an effort.

Often our kids also struggle to fit in or to find attention, self-confidence, and direction. Our mentors frequently become surrogate older brothers or sisters, who support and encourage, gradually changing young students’ attitudes, helping them to become more self-confident, and guiding them onto a more rewarding path.

A positive attitude is an extraordinary asset in taking on challenges and creating the habits and mindset to grow and succeed. Our mentoring is not a one-shot effort, it is a weekly commitment, which allows relationships to develop and expectations to take root. Our kids know that their mentors are going to be back to check up on them and support them week after week. The expectations, enthusiasm, and support of the mentors provide clear incentives that make a difference. And as reading skills grow and as the kids find books that engage them, a different kind of incentive takes hold and develops a momentum of its own. As the mentoring experience ends, our young students often demonstrate not only more interest in reading but also more confidence in themselves and their future.