February 14, 2022

Traveling Stories Needs Reading Mentors to Support Young Learners

Emily Moberly, CEO & Founder, Traveling Stories

First, we learn to read, then we read to learn.

In the fourth grade, schoolwork demands that children know how to gather information, solve problems, think critically, and act upon and share that knowledge. Children who can’t read proficiently by 4th grade are up to 15 times more likely to drop out of school (National Assessment of Education Progress).  In the San Diego Unified School District, 66% of students performed below 4th-grade level proficiency in reading in 2018 (Education Data Partnership). I suspect that number is even higher now because of the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic (2019-20 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress tests were not administered due to the pandemic).

Eleven years ago, I started Traveling Stories to empower children through reading. Since then, we’ve served over 7,000 children in San Diego. Traditionally, we have provided services in-person, but due to the pandemic, were forced to pivot to an online model. Our new Virtual StoryTent matches students in K-2nd grade with trained reading mentors for weekly, one-on-one reading sessions via video. In the program’s first year, we enrolled 158 students and facilitated over 1,774 hours of one-on-one reading support between students and mentors.

Vincent Duarte was one of the program’s first reading mentor volunteers. "When I was in elementary school, I relied on reading mentors to help improve my literacy skills,” Vincent said. “The relationship I developed with my reading mentors was enjoyable and enlightening. I am proud to be part of Traveling Stories because here I have the opportunity to be the mentor I once depended on." 

Vincent was paired with a student named Charlie. The two read together every week. At the beginning of the program, Charlie said she couldn't read unless someone was helping her, and that reading was "hard." By the end of the program, Charlie was much more confident about her reading abilities. She said she could now read with just a little help and even described reading as "easy!”

Demand for the Virtual StoryTent program is growing and we need volunteer support! In January 2022, 90 students enrolled in our first 9-week program of the year. Unfortunately, we had to turn away students because we didn’t have enough volunteers to support the program.

Traveling Stories’ next 9-week program begins April 6-7, 2022. We’re hoping to recruit more volunteers so that we can enroll more students. Volunteers must be at least 15 years old and those over 18 must complete a background check. Traveling Stories provides training for all volunteer opportunities.

Traveling Stories offers several volunteer opportunities including:

  • Reading Mentor: Get paired with a student and read with them every week! 1 hour per week (9-week commitment)
  • Reading Mentor Substitute: Fill in when a reading mentor is absent. Time commitment varies.
  • Help Desk Captain: Provide virtual support to readers and volunteers. Solve problems that have been identified by Help Desk Volunteers. 1-3 hours per week
  • Help Desk Volunteer: Monitor sessions virtually and provide minimal assistance to readers or volunteers as needed via text and email. 1-3 hours per week

If you would like to learn more or sign up to volunteer, please visit our website at www.travelingstories.or/volunteer or contact Bethany Moberly at

Traveling Stories is available for group sessions. If you would like to schedule a visit, please email us at