Bynum Offers City Employees Time off to Help Kids Learn to Read

Feb 15, 2017

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum helps a student in the Reading Partners program at Gilcrease Elementary. An executive order Bynum signed Wednesday will grant city employees up to two hours a week to volunteer with the literacy program.
Credit Brian Nutt / City of Tulsa

The City of Tulsa will allow all 3,600 of its employees paid time to volunteer with Reading Partners.

Mayor G.T. Bynum signed an executive order Wednesday to allow employees up to two hours a week with Reading Partners. Bynum said the early literacy nonprofit’s work can change kindergarten through third grade students’ lives.

"If we can improve third grade reading proficiency, that dramatically improves their odds of graduating from high school, which then has a huge impact on their career moving forward and their productivity as adults," Bynum said.

Students below grade level in reading skills during third grade point are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Bynum said many city employees want to volunteer with Reading Partners, but the only time to do that is during school hours.

"And for most of our employees, those are work hours. And so we want them to feel the opportunity to come and do this and not think they're going to get in trouble for coming to help kids," Bynum said.

Reading Partners Tulsa Executive Director Elizabeth Vereecke said none of the nonprofit’s 13 other locations in the U.S. has this kind of arrangement.

"This partnership that we have here with the City of Tulsa is unique and stands above what is happening even across the nation with Reading Partners programs," Vereecke said.

The city’s human resources department is working out the details for timekeeping and finding volunteers a match out of 24 Tulsa Public Schools reading centers.