Se­nior vol­un­teers read to stu­dents

Se­nior vol­un­teers find new pur­pose by read­ing to preschool­ers

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE -

If you have ever read a story to a child, you know what a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence it is to see a child sit­ting spell­bound, an­tic­i­pat­ing the next words, eyes wide and com­pletely en­grossed. It’s those mo­ments that shape how the child will think about books and read­ing for the rest of his/ her life.

What if you could in­flu­ence that drive to learn to love read­ing and books?

Sixty-one per­cent of low­in­come fam­i­lies in the USA have no books at all in their homes for their chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. As a re­sult, these chil­dren be­gin school be­hind their more af­flu­ent peers and are of­ten un­able to catch up. How do we en­sure that all stu­dents be­gin kinder­garten on equal foot­ing?

Ac­cord­ing to the ex­perts, it all be­gins with books.

The more ex­po­sure to books a child has, the bet­ter they will per­form.

RSVP re­cruits and trains vol­un­teers to be­come preschool class­room read­ers. In Head Start class­rooms in Mont­gomery, Delaware and Ch­ester coun­ties and one preschool in Philadel­phia’s Chi­na­town, RSVP vol­un­teers reach 2,200-plus preschool­ers through the Fam­ily Lit­er­acy pro­gram. Book drives, do­na­tions, grants and cor­po­rate part­ner­ships en­sure that books are pro­vided for Head Start class­rooms and that sev­eral books are gifted to chil­dren so they may be­gin to build their own home li­braries and fi­nally have books of their own.

Sher­i­lyn Ho­mans West is the fam­ily and com­mu­nity part­ner­ships su­per­vi­sor with the Mont­gomery County In­ter­me­di­ate Unit and works with 26 Head Start and nine Pre-K Counts class­rooms.

“A typ­i­cal Head Start class­room has 20 stu­dents of mul­ti­ple races, eth­nic­i­ties and cul­tural back­grounds,” she re­ports. “The typ­i­cal stu­dent is 3 to 5 years old and liv­ing in a low so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus. Many of our chil­dren have not been ex­posed to read­ing or books on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. We teach them how to hold a book prop­erly, learn about char­ac­ters and themes, rec­og­nize pat­terns and care for books.”

RSVP’s Fam­ily Lit­er­acy vol­un­teers typ­i­cally visit their as­signed class­room weekly. They of­ten se­lect and bring a book they know will ex­cite the stu­dents. Many will bring along items that en­hance the read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and bring the story to life for the chil­dren. The stu­dents get very ex­cited when they know a vol­un­teer will be vis­it­ing to read and will sit qui­etly in an­tic­i­pa­tion to hear the story. When chil­dren are read to aloud, they ac­quire a stronger vo­cab­u­lary and are able to de­velop the crit­i­cal early lit­er­acy skills they will need when they en­ter school.

“Hav­ing a vol­un­teer in the class­room pro­vides an­other op­por­tu­nity for stu­dents to en­gage in a oneon-one ba­sis, which is in­valu­able,” Ho­mans West said. “The vol­un­teers pro­vide chil­dren with an­other car­ing adult to guide them and ex­cite them about read­ing.”

Par­ent work­shops are held to en­cour­age and fa­cil­i­tate read­ing at home. A sim­ple news­let­ter ac­com-

A fea­ture of RSVP’s Fam­ily Lit­er­acy pro­gram is Lucky the Dal­ma­tian, the read­ing mas­cot, a stuffed toy that ac­com­pa­nies the stu­dents home along with read­ing books and a jour­nal where fam­i­lies can write about what Lucky did while he was a vis­i­tor and which books he en­joyed.

pa­nies the books chil­dren take home and of­fers fun tips to make read­ing with chil­dren an an­tic­i­pated and ex­cit­ing time. Read­ing at home is not just im­por­tant to ad­vance lit­er­acy; it’s also an im­por­tant bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for fam­i­lies. Based on RSVP sur­veys, 83 per­cent of par­ents un­der­stand the im­por­tance of read­ing at home be­cause of this pro­gram.

A fea­ture of RSVP’s Fam­ily Lit­er­acy pro­gram is Lucky the Dal­ma­tian, the read­ing mas­cot, a stuffed toy that ac­com­pa­nies the stu­dents home along with read­ing books and a jour­nal where fam­i­lies can write about what Lucky did while he was a vis­i­tor and which books he en­joyed. Chil­dren love Lucky and will of­ten retell the story to him by point­ing to the pictures.

“Eighty per­cent of par­ents are read­ing more of­ten to their chil­dren, av­er­ag­ing 4.3 books per week,” Michele Moll, RSVP’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, re­ported. “In­ter­est in read­ing has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally, with 75 per­cent of stu­dents and 64 of their sib­lings ex­press­ing more in­ter­est in books.”

Mary Jo Wineberg is a new vol­un­teer who just joined the pro­gram. She will be­gin at a Head Start class­room in Yeadon in a few weeks, and she’s thrilled to get started. She misses the days when her grand­chil­dren were young and she would read to them and make up sto­ries. She knows that she will be able to rekin­dle that joy in the class­room.

“I have a lot to give,” she said. “I used to make up sto­ries all the time about tur­tles and ducks and fairies. When we would go out to­gether, we’d look for the fairies. My friends still call me Tinker­bell! My grand­daugh­ters both grew up to be great read­ers. Now in col­lege, they make the Dean’s List every year.”

Class­room read­ers are needed in Ch­ester, Delaware and Mont­gomery coun­ties and Philadel­phia’s Chil­dren’s Vil­lage to ex­cite preschool­ers about read­ing and help pre­pare them to en­ter kinder­garten. To learn more, visit rsvpmc.org or call 610-8341040 ext. 123.

In­ter­est in read­ing has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally, with 75 per­cent of stu­dents and 64 of their sib­lings ex­press­ing more in­ter­est in books. —

Michelle Moll, RSVP’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — RSVP

Head Start preschool­ers en­joy their new books.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — RSVP

RSVP cor­po­rate part­ner Peo­ples Se­cu­rity col­lected books dur­ing a re­cent book drive. Here, Ian Mat­lack, Peo­ples Se­cu­rity Se­nior VP, presents a Head Start class­room with the books.

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