Sunday, June 10, 2007


Reading to Kids

My friend Debra turned me on to a volunteer program called Reading to Kids and yesterday was our first day to go. We went to Gratts Elementary School which is just west of the 110 downtown. We got to read to first graders and I really liked it. You might know I LOVE reading so any chance to share that love is exciting.

Since Debra and I were new, we were each paired up with a veteran reader/volunteer. We lined up with our students and walked over to our classrooms to begin the morning program. First we had an icebreaker and everyone said their name and a little something about ourselves. Okay, this is not super easy when you are starting with six and seven year olds. So we pressed on, asking them who their teacher was and if they liked to read. Then it was time to start reading. The other volunteer and I took turns reading pages from our book:

And it looked something like this:
(This is a picture from their website.)

The kids in our group were Sky, Anabel, Daisy, Hector, Jorge, Ana and her 3 year old cousin Diego, and Linda. They were fantastic. Once we got rolling, they began to loosen up and respond when we asked questions about the book and what we were reading along the way. The program is designed to inspire kids to read more and also to improve language arts. Most kids at Gratts are Latino and are being taught in English and so the idea for us volunteers is not to have the kids read, but to improve their listening and communication skills. So how appropriate is that for somone like me who is not shy and quite happy to yak away to help in this area!?

After the book reading was done, it was time for crafts. All groups are provided with paper and crayons and glue sticks and scissors and we decided to make our own books. So each one drew pictures and glued in shapes that the other volunteer and I cut out (stars, etc). This is when the kids really started chatting! Diego, only 3, was drawing lots of circles and Ana, his cousin, found some yarn and made him a bracelet with stars on it. Nice! Jorge didn't want to draw anything I suggested until I said, what do you like to draw? POWER RANGERS! Go for it Jorge! He did, and boy did he draw a nice power ranger. Sky drew her house full of hearts and labeled them Mom and Dad. Sweet. Everyone kept saying "Teacher! Teacher!" and would show me what they had done. I just wanted to eat them all up!

When the crafts were done we got to hand out a book for each student to take home and then we returned to the auditorium for a raffle giveaway of a new laptop computer. This was a huge deal and very exciting. While we were waiting, we sat on the floor with our students and Ana told me that Diego wanted me to read his new book to him. Um Okay!! So I read his book to him and he just sat their and listened very patiently. As did Ana. More reading! Nice.

Then it was all done and we were excused. Most exciting Saturday morning I've had in a while. Thank you Debra!

The great thing about the program is that it is more than just inspiring kids to read. It reaches out to their families and the whole community. Here is a section from their site:
Reading to Kids is a grassroots organization dedicated to inspiring underserved children with a love of reading, thereby enriching their lives and opportunities for success in the future. To this end, Reading to Kids gathers about 600 children and 220 volunteers at reading clubs on the second Saturday of every month at six Los Angeles elementary schools.

At the monthly reading clubs, pairs of volunteers read aloud to small groups of children, while their parents receive training on how to encourage their children to read at home. Kids, parents, teachers, and school libraries receive book donations at the end of the Reading Clubs. These are important donations, as 60 percent of low-income homes do not have age-appropriate reading materials for children.

Since its inception, Reading to Kids has given more than 40,000 books to children who attend the reading clubs and donated more than 6,600 books to school libraries.

I highly recommend signing up for this if you can spare one Saturday morning a month. If not, there are other ways you can help on their website.

Reading IS Fundamental.

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You are so welcome, Julia. And thank YOU for being so enthusiastic and coming along. I loved reading to the kids, but my favorite part was Govinda. Looking forward to making this a monthly event.
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