By Tina Rosenberg
School went badly last year for José, Angel and Estefani. The 8-year-old twins and their 7-year-old sister are recent immigrants to the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. In part because they didn’t speak much English, late in 2010 all three were notified they were in danger of failing.
But their fortunes changed in January. They began going to the Fort Washington Library every Saturday for two hours of one-on-one tutoring from Elayne Castillo-Vélez, her sister, Sharon Castillo, and their grandmother, Saturnina Gutiérrez. The children had lost confidence and didn’t feel that more hours spent with school books would produce anything, said Castillo-Vélez. “There were times when all they wanted to do was talk about their week,” she said.