News10 Special Report:Reading is ‘magic' at the Wizard's Wardrobe

News10 Special Report:Reading is ‘magic’ at the Wizard’s Wardrobe


Posted: Nov 26, 2018 / 10:31 AM EST / Updated: Nov 26, 2018 / 11:43 AM EST

In this Super Mom report, News10’s Mary Wilson visits a special tutoring program in Albany that extends learning beyond the classroom in a magical setting that feels nothing like school.

Enter through the wardrobe, a secret portal to a world where reading is magic.

A special space filled with wands, wizard hats, and castle walls that was once dilapidated and covered in mold. Through donations and grants, the mess was transformed into the Wizard’s Wardrobe, a free one-on-one tutoring program for Albany’s South End students.

“Some of them even live in homeless shelters and so there’s nothing real constant in their lives.”

Program Director Debra Fagans says that all changes when students enter through the wardrobe.

“The idea is that it doesn’t look like the children are walking into a tutoring program and have the stigma of going to a tutoring program,” she said.

The mystical theme makes learning fun. Students earn tokens to trade in for goodies, but the real focus is literacy – helping children become confident readers by grade 3.

“Because when they go on to grades 4 and 5 and further they have to absorb a lot of content and that means comprehension.”

Executive Director Agnes Zellin says it’s the one-on-one component that makes all the difference.

“A student comes in and knows there’s somebody waiting for them, just for them,” she said.

3rd grader Ariana is diving into her lessons with tutor Carmen French. The pair meet twice a week and have formed a close bond.

“She’s fun and she’s really paying attention to what I do and looking out for what I do and mistakes I do,” said Ariana.

Studies show that one-on-one instruction works: improving reading comprehension 4 times the normal rate, giving students greater school attendance, and helping them perform higher on standardized tests. And being a tutor is rewarding.

“She’s always giving 150 percent, she’s always prepared to learn, so being with her is like having a little girl that I never had,” said French.

All around the room, spellbound students are reading and writing…and they’re happy to be here. Proving there might be something supernatural about the Wizard’s Wardrobe after all.

“Reading is magic, it is, you can go places you never thought you could go and may never will,” said Zellin.  

Wizard’s Wardrobe is always looking for private and corporate donations. They also need more tutors so they can accept more students into the program. You don’t need teaching experience. They will gladly train you and help you make a difference in a child’s life. Follow this link to learn how: