My New Friend Ashley

Most of the time, I try to be involved in some kind of volunteer work that matches both my time and my values. It’s usually a private matter that I don’t share. Today, however, I started a new volunteer job that I want to tell you about because I hope that it might encourage you to volunteer as well. If you’re looking for a way to mentor a child in a limited amount of time that will most likely have a huge impact, then I encourage you to try Reading Partners.

You probably already know that Reading Partners provides one-on-one literacy mentoring for children in the early grades in Tulsa Public Schools. I’ve read a lot about Reading Partners, and I also went to a presentation last year. My friend and fellow writer Karen Moult has been a mentor for quite some time and encouraged me to do it. She has blogged about her experiences for TulsaKids as a guest blogger. You can read more here

Today, I met my reading buddy, Ashley. We spent most of our hour together just getting to know one another. She’s in the first grade and she loves princesses. She told me that her mother said that when she grows up, she will be beautiful. Ashley is already beautiful. She dreams of being an artist or a librarian, and wants to do well in math this year. Another one of Ashley’s goals is to hug everyone in her class.

For our reading time, Ashley picked out at book about a little girl whose cat dies, so the family decides it will get a puppy to ease their lonliness. As we read the book, Ashley could predict what would happen next and was good at recalling what had happened earlier in the plot. She knew right away what the word “lonely” meant, but wasn’t as sure about another vocabulary word.

Children can also pick books to take home to keep if they bring back a book report. We went through her first report together. Ashley picked a book about a peddler who sells caps. He goes to sleep under a tree and monkeys steal his caps. Ashley wanted to know what the word “cap” started with and what a peddler was. The book has a happy ending and Ashley told me that she likes happy endings. Me too.

Ashley said she had a lot of fun and couldn’t wait to see me next week.

Although I’ve never taught young children, I have taught English in middle school through college. I understand the pedagogy that Reading Partners is using, so it was easy to slip into the rhythm. In fact, I felt a little restricted because the program is so scripted, but if you do have experience and use the script as a guideline, it works extremely well.

If you are inexperienced, the step-by-step guide is excellent. Volunteers don’t need to be fearful or anxious about working with a child. The system works and has amazing results.

I can’t think of a better way to volunteer. In just one hour a week, the impact on a child is immense and potentially life-changing. Literacy is at the heart of all learning.

But, more than that, I’m excited to get to know Ashley and to be a part of her life each week. I know we’re going to be great friends.

Reading Partners is still looking for 200 tutors. How much time do you spend on Facebook or Pinterest or reading google news? Do you have one hour a week to help a child?

Categories: Editor’s Blog