Instilling a Passion for Reading – One Child at a Time

RSVP America Reads volunteer Linda works with students in a local 3rd grade classroom. Image provided

You may have noticed that the big yellow school busses are back on the road, which only means one thing: school’s open!

With students back in classrooms, you can bet there is a lot of learning going on. Each new school year creates a lot of excitement and anticipation as students and teachers gear up for another year. The real challenge for teachers is finding the right pace and balance, while not leaving anyone behind.

Students learn at different rates, so in an effort to keep students moving forward, some teachers rely on classroom volunteers to help keep students engaged and motivated to learn.

RSVP of Montgomery County’s America Reads program places volunteer reading coaches into kindergarten through third grade classrooms throughout the county. These volunteers dedicate their time to supporting the teacher by working with groups or individuals who have been identified by the teacher as students who would benefit from practicing reading and comprehension skills. “Volunteers have the opportunity to make reading fun by taking away the pressure of reading in front of the whole class” reports Marion Silver, the program’s coordinator. “America Reads volunteers let each student take a turn reading, and then each student has an opportunity to talk about what’s just been read. This provides students with a quiet and safe place to practice and not be judged or criticized by his or her peers.”

During the 2012-2013 school year, RSVP’s America Reads volunteers provided reading help to more than 700 students in 34 area elementary schools.

Silver continues “We’re doing what we can to promote literacy early in a child’s life to change the current national statistic of one in four children in America growing up without having learned to read well.”

“Our volunteers are quite amazing. Their dedication and real concern for the student’s well-being is a great example of our whole community benefiting from the best gift anyone can give: their time!”

Ruth has been volunteering for one year. She started working with children when she was fourteen and still has that passion now into her 80’s. Ruth remembers “On my 82nd birthday I received a letter from a boy who had been a student 50 years ago. Now grown with a family of his own, he wanted to let me know how much I meant to him. That note meant so much to me and it reminds me that I still have something to give.” Ruth goes into classrooms and works with students who are struggling with reading by coaching and encouraging them to work through their difficulties. “My goal is to help any student I can help.”

When Miss Linda shows up in school, the students squeal in excitement. Linda has been with the same teacher for ten years. “I love children and I love reading, so this program seemed to be right for me. As it turns out, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my life. If we read about the equator, I’ll get a world globe and show them where it is as I can take the time to be a little more in depth. I also learn something new each week from the students. For instance, we were reading about nature and the kids told me that birds know where to dig for worms by sensing vibrations in the soil through their feet. It’s a win, win, win situation.”

Joe worked in marketing and sales until he retired. “I viewed retirement as an opportunity to give back to our community. I go to school two days each week. My biggest kick is watching the trust build between me and the students. Depending on the child, I say that reading is a skill no different from riding a bike or playing a sport. If they practice, I guarantee they will improve. The thought of the new school year always brings a smile to my face.”

RSVP is always looking for additional volunteers to join the America Reads program. To learn more about the program and join a scheduled training program, contact Marion Silver at (610) 834-1040, ext. 27 or email marions@rsvpmc.org.

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