By Jessica Dean

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For elementary school students, only a few hours of reading a week can make a big difference in test scores, so volunteers are stopping by after school to coach some new readers.

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Nyron Crawford is an assistant professor of political science at Temple University, so 5-year-old Safeer is a little younger than his usual student. But that’s exactly what Nyron signed up for.

“We read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, and we had a great time, but we decided we wanted to focus on the theme of superheroes,” Nyron said as an excited Safeer ran circles around him, preparing to read a Batman book.

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“Is the Joker a bad guy?” Nyron asked.

“Yeah!” Safeer said.

“Oh!”

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Nyron is a volunteer for Philly Reading Coaches, a new program matching more than 100 volunteers with children in three schools for one-on-one reading twice a week.

“We have high school students, we have college students, we have seniors. It runs the gamut, thirteen to 100 or older,” sad Christine Piven, chief of staff of community and culture in the office of the Philadelphia managing director.

Najifa Zaman and other high schoolers from Carver High School volunteer at Tanner Duckrey School.

“Maybe I could help someone else love reading as much as I do,” Najifa said.

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The stories are memorable already. Five-year-old Dylan remembers one of his first books: “He was a guy, and then a girl got a pet, and it was a fly.”

“They’re reading books that are new and fresh,” Duckrey principal David Cohen said. “It also gives a chance for them to meet someone who is not a peer –  a grownup –  and form a bond over books and words.”

The Philly Reading Coaches program is funded by a $2 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, which pays to train coaches, track student improvement, and supply books.

“During the length of the program, each kid takes home books that they get to keep and build their at-home library,” said Christine. That means they can always go back to that first favorite book.

The Philly Reading Coaches program hope to expand to at least 17 additional schools later this year.

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If you can commit to an hour a week, you can volunteer too. Volunteers must be at least 13 years old or in the 8th grade. Volunteers must commit to the entire academic year. You don’t need prior teaching experience; the program provides training.

You can sign up at SERVE Philadelphia or contact PRC@phila.gov  or call 215-686-2055.

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