Lately, I’ve been drawn towards devoting my extra time to local education. I feel like it’s the easiest way to make the most impact in kids’ lives…and making a difference to kids feels to me like the best way to make our world a better place.
So, one day, I was heading down one of many various internet rabbit holes, and I landed upon the page for Reading Partners – a reading tutoring program to help kids learn how to read. Specifically, this program focuses on kids in low income communities who are reading 6 months to 2.5 years below their grade level. Did you know that only 34% of 4th graders can read proficiently? That’s crazy to me! 34%!
I immediately thought of my own childhood carrying home stacks of books larger than me from the local library where I grew up. We read so ravenously that my mom had to find a new library to take us to after we’d read every (suitable) book in the tiny neighborhood library the size of my first apartment out of college.
Ramona Quimby, The BabySitters Club, and Encylopedia Brown were characters that guided me through my childhood, and the thought that some other children would miss out on that type of imagination stretching adventure made me feel so sad that I had to do something about it.
This past year, I spent time with a lovely 3rd grader at J. J. Rhoads Learning Center in the Fair Park area of Dallas through Reading Partners. Each week, I spent 45 minutes with her walking through lessons to cover topics like Cause & Effect, Fairytales vs Realism, and Poetry. Each lesson helped me walk her through what the topic was and some exercises to practice. We also had a set of books to pick from to see the topic in action and practice reading. There was also “Vocabulary Net” in her file to write down words she didn’t understand so that we could look them up and write sentences using the new words.
For someone like me who hasn’t had major training to work with kids, the lesson plans made it so easy to have structure & direction in how to help the student. It was also a joy to read with her as I saw her grow in proficiency and also expression in her reading. The 45 minutes a week I spent felt really worthwhile.
At the end of the program, Reading Partners sent me an email telling me that my student had started the school year at a 2.9 reading level and had progressed to a 4.3 level of reading. How awesome!!
So today, as the school year is beginning, I wanted to share this volunteer opportunity with you guys. If you are looking for a way to make a big difference with not much time investment, this is it! It is truly a very well organized and structured program that works.
I encourage you guys to read more about the program, and if you are so moved, go ahead and sign up. Reading Partners is always looking for more volunteers and they are working in schools across Texas, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, New York, Maryland, Washington D.C, and South Carolina. I promise it will be both rewarding and enjoyable!
(Click HERE for other ways to give back.)