Mentor Frequently Asked Questions

Please click the question below to find the answer, or scroll down to read all questions and answers! If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to email volunteer@readahead.org.

General Questions About Read Ahead
Who can become a Read Ahead mentor?
Where would I mentor?
When does Read Ahead take place?
What is the weekly time commitment?
How many years of mentoring are expected in Read Ahead?
What if I don’t feel confident in my ability to commit to Read Ahead every week?
Can I choose my co-mentor?
How old are the mentees?
How are mentees selected?
What if I can’t make it on my scheduled day?
What if I move or change jobs during the school year and am no longer able to mentor?

Questions About Becoming a Mentor
Are you currently accepting new mentors?
Is training provided and/or required?
I attended the in-person training last school year but ended up not mentoring. Do I need to attend a new training session if I want to mentor this upcoming school year?
What are the steps required for becoming a Read Ahead mentor?
Do I have to complete and pass a background check?
How long does the matching process take?

Questions About Being a Mentor
What is a Read Ahead mentor’s role?
What makes a good mentor?
How do you match mentors with mentees?
How should my mentee and I spend our time during our virtual sessions?
What do I do if I have a problem or challenge with my mentee?
What if I’m concerned about my mentee’s well-being?
Can I give a gift to my mentee?
Can I post photos of my mentee to social media?
Can I mentor over the summer?
Can I meet with my mentee outside of the program?

General Questions About Read Ahead

Who can become a Read Ahead mentor?

Employees of our partner organizations. To see the full list, please click here

Where would I mentor?

As distance learning continues in the 2020-21 school year, Read Ahead is committed to connecting students to the mentoring and reading support they need now more than ever! Mentoring takes place remotely, from your computer, using Read Ahead’s secure Zoom account.

When does Read Ahead take place?

Mentoring sessions are 45 minutes long and will be held once a week from October through June. The 45 minute sessions will most likely take place between 11:00 am and 3:30 pm, and you will have the option to let us know which available time works best for you. Please see below about our co-mentoring option if you are unable to make a weekly commitment.

Please note that NYC public schools are experiencing unprecedented scheduling challenges due to COVID-19. We are working closely with our school partners as they await official Department of Education guidance about school openings and remote learning, and we will contact all mentors about scheduling their sessions once school schedules are finalized. We do not anticipate school schedules being finalized until late September. Thank you for your flexibility and patience.

What is the weekly time commitment?

Virtual sessions are 45 minutes long. We ask that mentors log into Zoom and set up 5-10 minutes prior to the session time so there are no delays in starting the session on time. Please see below about our co-mentoring option if you are unable to make a weekly commitment.

How many years of mentoring are expected in Read Ahead?

Mentors must commit to participating for one full school year. We highly encourage you to consider mentoring your mentee for multiple years, which increases the impact of your mentoring relationship.

What if I don’t feel confident in my ability to commit to Read Ahead every week?

You can sign up as a co-mentor! This is when two mentors work with the same child and alternate weeks throughout the year. This reduces the time commitment for each co-mentor, and the idea is that if something comes up, your co-mentor would cover for you so that the child doesn’t miss a session! This is a great option for mentors with busy schedules who would prefer a bi-weekly, rather than weekly, commitment.

Can I choose my co-mentor?

If you decide to co-mentor, we give you the option to partner with a specific co-mentor. You can specify your co-mentor’s name and email in your mentor application. Each co-mentor must submit a mentor application and coordinate their session days and times in order to co-mentor the same mentee.

If you would like to co-mentor but don’t have a specific co-mentor in mind, we will do our best to match you with one. Please note that it may take a bit longer to make your match.

How old are the mentees?

We work with children in 1st through 5th grade, about ages 6-12.

How are mentees selected?

We work closely with our school partners and with families to identify children who would benefit from participation in Read Ahead. Students are recommended by partner school staff because they would benefit from one-on-one mentoring to support their personal and academic growth. Common reasons why mentees enroll include the opportunity to build their literacy skills, gain confidence in reading and speaking, develop a love of reading, and gain exposure to English (for those learning English as a new language).

What if I can’t make it on my scheduled day?

Keeping to your scheduled day is preferred as the consistency is beneficial for your mentee and rescheduling to another day is not always an option. In some cases, Program Coordinators can accommodate rescheduling. Please contact your school’s Program Coordinator to ask about rescheduling.

What if I move or change jobs during the school year and am no longer able to mentor?

We understand that these things happen. If you know prior to the year’s start that this is very likely for you, it’s not the right time to become a Read Ahead mentor. If it happens unexpectedly, we encourage you to finish the school year with your mentee. If that’s not feasible, it’s important to let your Program Coordinator know as soon as possible and to have at least one last virtual session to explain to your mentee that you need to end early.


Questions About Becoming a Mentor

Are you currently accepting new mentors?

Employees from Read Ahead’s partner organizations are invited to apply for the 2020-21 school year. The application opens in August and will remain open into the fall if mentors are still needed. Click here for our mentor application (or interest form when the application period is closed).

Is training provided and/or required?

Yes, training is required. Read Ahead is excited to launch a brand new online on-demand training solution to provide an engaging training experience that can be accessed safely and conveniently. Please note that both new and returning mentors are required to complete online training for the 2020-21 school year. Training courses will become available in September and must be completed prior to the start of the program.

I attended the in-person training last school year but ended up not mentoring. Do I need to attend a new training session if I want to mentor this upcoming school year?

Yes – all mentors, returning or new, are required to attend the 2020-21 online training.

What are the steps required for becoming a Read Ahead mentor?

Mentors (including returning mentors given many changes to the 2020-21 program) must complete the following steps to participate: 1) Review our online orientation (if you haven’t done so, please click here), 2) Complete a mentor application, 3) Complete online on-demand training, 4) Pass a background check, and 5) Confirm your availability and schedule prior to the program start date.

Do I have to complete and pass a background check?

All mentors (new and returning) must complete and pass a criminal background check before they can start mentoring. Read Ahead has selected an approved background screening provider, Sterling Volunteers, to conduct background checks. The background check’s cost is covered by Read Ahead with an option for mentors to contribute towards the cost of their own background check.

How long does the matching process take?

The mentor-mentee matching process begins in September of each school year and lasts several weeks. Our 2020 timeline may be extended as we await Department of Education decisions about the school calendar and whether students will attend school in-person, as a blended model, or fully virtual may. Mentors are only eligible to be matched after they have completed all of the 5 steps outlined above for becoming a Read Ahead mentor. After completing all the onboarding steps, your designated Program Coordinator will be in touch with you to give you more information about the timeframe.


Questions About Being a Mentor

What is a Read Ahead mentor’s role?

A key part of the mentor’s role is to be a trusted and caring presence for your mentee. Positive, supportive relationships are central to Read Ahead’s program and mission. Building on this relationship, mentors spend time reading with their mentee using books as mirrors and windows to open conversation.

Recognizing the significant risk of long- term learning loss that students are facing right now (the “COVID slide”), Read Ahead’s program will also include structured, individualized literacy support during the 2020-21 school year.

What makes a good mentor?

A good mentor is a caring, consistent, and supportive role model. Some qualities of successful mentors include being an active listener, patient, and open-minded. Read Ahead staff will be with you every step of the way to help you build a positive relationship with your mentee.

How do you match mentors with mentees?

Read Ahead takes into account the experiences, backgrounds, and schedules of our mentors and mentees when making matches

How should my mentee and I spend our time during our virtual sessions?

Read Ahead’s virtual sessions begin and end as a full group of up to 10 mentor-mentee pairs on Zoom, led and supervised by the Program Coordinator. After checking in as a group, you and your mentee will be assigned to your own breakout room with the Program Coordinator only a click away for support. In your one-on-one mentoring time, we encourage you and your mentee to check-in, complete a guided literacy lesson on BookNook, and then spend your remaining time talking, playing games via Zoom’s whiteboard feature, and/or reading books on Epic. We encourage mentors to follow your mentee’s lead and allow him or her to have some choice in each session’s activities. At the end of each session, the full group comes back together for 5 minutes of reflection.

What do I do if I have a problem or challenge with my mentee?

Your Program Coordinator is always available as a resource to support you in your mentoring role. Please schedule a time to connect with your Program Coordinator about any issues or challenges that come up with your mentee. If you are struggling during your session in your breakout room, press the “Ask for Help” button and the Program Coordinator will join you and your mentee to facilitate any issues. The Program Coordinator is available to provide guidance and suggestions for your mentoring relationship during and/or outside of Read Ahead sessions.

What if I’m concerned about my mentee’s well-being?

If the child says, draws, or indicates anything that makes you concerned about his/her well-being, report it immediately to your Program Coordinator. Read Ahead has processes in place to report concerns to the school.

Can I give a gift to my mentee?

No, gifts are not appropriate in Read Ahead. You are welcome to make a book donation to the Read Ahead library in honor of your mentee in lieu of a gift. Cards are also allowed.

Can I post photos of my mentee to social media?

Yes, as long as your mentee’s parent/guardian has authorized Read Ahead and his/her mentor to take and use photos, provided that no identifying characteristics about the child are included. Please do not include your mentee’s last name or school name. Ask your Program Coordinator if your mentee has photo permission.

Can I mentor over the summer?

No. At this time Read Ahead takes place during the school year only, from October to June. We don’t currently offer summer programs.

Can I meet with my mentee outside of program?

No, Read Ahead does not facilitate any outside of program contact between mentors and mentees. This includes phone and/or email communication. It is against Read Ahead policy to ask your mentee to share their personal contact information with you or to be in contact with them outside of the program.

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