In May 1997, President Clinton proposed that Federal work-study students serve as reading tutors to help all children read well by the end of the third grade. Studies have shown that sustained individualized attention and reading tutoring can raise reading levels significantly. As Richard Riley, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education explains, "The America Reads program promotes access to college by helping students finance post-secondary education costs while offering these same students the opportunity to pursue community service. This creates a win-win situation; young learners and communities gain from the services provided, and students (and the university) who might not ordinarily be able to share in the community service experience can now afford to be involved."
Clemson University joined the America Reads Challenge by developing a program during the 1997/1998 academic year. The program is staffed by Federal Work Study students and Creative Inquiry participants, representing a wide range of disciplines and colleges at Clemson University. Debra Vassey, Federal Work Study Manager, and Leslie D. Roberts, Graduate Assistant/America Reads Program Director serve as program co-directors. The America Reads program is housed in the Office of Student Financial Aid. America Reads tutors currently work with Kindergarten through 3rd grade students at Clemson Elementary School through a partnership with Clemson Elementary's after school care program.