Richard Ruelas: A volunteer program that pairs children with seniors is paying off in the classroom. Producer Christina Estes and photographer Juan Magana take us to Frank elementary in Guadalupe.
Child: Sharks have lived in the world.
Child: These are some things we do.
Martha Jocobo-Smith: We have about 608 students here at Frank. In pre-K through fifth grade.
Christina Estes: About 40 of them meet with their reading buddies a week. They are more formally known as AARP's experience corps. Volunteers who are trained to help students read better.
Nat Tinkler: I have been involved for about five years. This is my fifth year.
Christina Estes: Nat Tinkler is the ring leader. He recruited four other retirees in his neighborhood.
Nat Tinkler: They are young. They are so impressionable and they are a lot of fun. So I get a lot of enjoyment out of that.
Christina Estes: But this is more than a feel-good program. According to principal Martha Jacobo-Smith.
Martha Jocobo-Smith: They read nonfiction text. They work on phonics, vocabulary, fluency, they ask all those important questions related to the text that children need to know in order to comprehend and to grow academically.
Christina Estes: She says test shows students are improving their read building skills.
Nat Tinkler: Very good job.
Christina Estes: And there's another bonus. They are gaining confidence.
Martha Jocobo-Smith: We can see it in them. We can see the conversations they have with the tutors. We can see the children wanting to read more text. I have stopped in a few times when they are reading with the children. And children will be eager to share what they have read.
Child: Many people are afraid of sharks but --
Howard Shapiro: I think it's important that especially us seniors who have the time to be able to offer our assistance, whether it be in schools, in a school setting or in a business setting, it's important that we give back a little bit.
Christina Estes: While giving back is a priority for Howard Shapiro, he admits it's not all fun and games. And like most teachers he looks forward to summer break.
Howard Shapiro: There's a lot of repetition. A couple more pages. Come on. Everybody is different. We are going to read together, you and me together at the same time. Those are baby turtles on that beige. We will get there in a second. The pencil disappeared again? Patience is key.
Christina Estes: The payoff comes from knowing they are making a difference.
Howard Shapiro: Gives you a sense the kids are going to be successful. They will be able to accomplish something.
Christina Estes: And sometimes it comes from learning new words.
Howard Shapiro: One of my little girls says, "easy peasy, lemon squeezy." Is it the shark book?
Christina Estes: When the school year ends these volunteers and students will share a life-long lesson that friendship, like reading, is fundamental.
Howard Shapiro: Was that fun? You did very well. I was very proud of your reading today. It was very good.
Richard Ruelas: Right now Tempe is the only Arizona city using experience corps volunteers, but Phoenix plans to launch the program this fall with about tutors in four elementary districts. That's all tonight for "Arizona Horizon." See you tomorrow.