New Reading Tool Connects Young Students To Volunteers Online

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 7:17am
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(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Reid Despiegelaere helps first-graders learn Vello, an online reading tool.

The Valley of the Sun United Way rolled out new technology in Glendale Tuesday. It is a first step to help kids across the country read more. 

"Read it with me, 'We put in some sugar,' ok on your own, go," Reid Despiegelaere, program coordinator, said.

In a first-grade classroom at Melvin E. Sine Elementary School, a student sits in front of a computer with a headset on and reads along with an electronic book.

If this weren’t a simulation, on the other end of the headset would be a United Way volunteer, remotely reading along with the child and being there for any stumbles or pauses on the page.

Helping the students learn how to use the program, called Vello, is national coordinator Despiegelaere.

“We made it easy for any kid in the classroom that could benefit from that extra push in reading to get that one-on-one support,” he said.

Despiegelaere said Vello is starting in school districts with higher poverty rates, like Glendale Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary in south Phoenix.

United Way volunteers like Rebecca Ehlen came to the school to launch the program.

“You need that vote of confidence and support." Ehlen said, talking about the kids. "Not just from your parents and from school, but the community. Just kind of be there for them. Sometimes they don’t have that.”

One second-grader, Kameron Morngine, said reading together through the internet is so cool, it blows his mind.

“It’s fun, I gotta admit. It’s like … PEWW!” he said, widening his eyes and flinging his hands up next to his head.

Vello will launch in five other cities across the nation in the coming months.