In The Press
By: Amy Blakemore, Volunteer Outreach Coordinator, & Kaela Vronsky, Vice President of Program Management
One of the most common questions we receive from volunteers is “Why can’t our students read to us?” Like our volunteers, we are thrilled when students ask to read to their mentor, so why do we insist that our mentors continue reading to their student, and not the other way around? We recognize the great merit in encouraging students to read independently, but we know that the limited time our mentors have with students is best used reading aloud to them. Here are the top three reasons why:
1) When mentors select books that are just above a child’s reading level, they are exposed to new, more complex vocabulary, text structures, and informational content.
2) When mentors read, they can manage the pace (thus often fitting in more content), guide more stimulating discussions, and interact with the text.
3) Reading aloud to children allows them to enjoy the book without having to work for it, instilling a love of stories and inspiring them to read on their own.
In order to foster the best lunchtime reading experience possible, keep this simple check in mind: if the book you are reading to your student is easy enough for them to read to you, then you know it’s time to pick a more advanced book. Use your School Coordinator as a literary resource in finding new book selections as you and your student explore new worlds in text!
You can help share the cause by turning your social media pages ‘Give Me $5’ – simply change your profile photos and covers to our campaign banners! Download banners here:
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Read to a Child is hosting its first digital fundraising campaign for Friends and Family called ‘Give Me $5’ and we invite you to join the cause!
The Give Me $5 campaign makes it easy for anyone to support the cause with our ‘Give Me $5’ ask – donations in increments of $5 making it most affordable to give and to fundraise.
When: The campaign will run from August 1 – 31, 2014.
The ‘Give Me $5’ Goal: $50,000 in one month!
It’s easy to join the campaign!
Sign up as a champion to fundraise a goal of $100 in one month online! That’s just 20 friends and family members donating $5 each to reach the goal! http://www.firstgiving.com/21980
Recruit your friends and family to join us in fundraising. We need all the champions we can find to help us hit our goal!
Go Live with Give me $5! You can help share the cause by turning your social media pages ‘Give Me $5’ – simply change your profile photos and covers to our campaign banners! Download banners here. https://readtoachild.org/go-live-with-give-me-5-banners/
Join the movement on social media: use our hashtag #readtoachildgiveme5, post, like, tweet – just share it forward!
Prizes will be awarded to the top 5 champion fundraisers and the top 3 champions who recruit the most volunteers to join the campaign! For updates on progress and who is in the lead for fundraising, visit our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/readtoachild.org
Top fundraisers will be announced on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014. *A minimum $100 fundraising goal must be met by your referred champion recruits by the end of the campaign for qualification. You can email the names of your recruits to Amelie Ansari at email@example.com
Donors win too! In appreciation of everyone that makes a donation through the First Giving fundraising site or at the Read to a Child website, will be automatically entered into our prize drawings for books and cool prizes as well! Winners will be announced daily on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/readtoachild.org
For more information or questions on the Read to a Child Friends & Family ‘Give Me $5’ campaign, please contact: Amelie Ansari at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Angie Orenstein
Posted Jun. 22, 2014 @ 2:00 pm
From left, Annemarie Sullivan, Diana Rodriguez, and Paula Flannery. Sullivan and Flannery are mentors from EMD Millipore who read to Diana’s twin second graders at the Parker, Anthony and Thomas Rodriguez (pictured in front). WICKED LOCAL PHOTO/ANGIE ORENSTEIN
Several Parker Elementary School students received certificates for their participation in Read to a Child, a national non-profit organization that pairs employees from local companies with elementary school children who could benefit from some extra support in reading.
This year, the second year the program has been in place at the Parker, there were 33 employees and 27 children taking part. Acting as mentors, the employees volunteer their time to come in once a week on a Thursday or Friday from October to June to read books to the children during their lunch period. The goal is to get the child to improve their reading skills, increase their vocabulary, and have someone to talk to and share ideas with one on one. They strive to keep the same mentor with the same child for the years they are with the program in order to encourage a close bond from which a love of reading can blossom.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Melissa Webber whose daughter, Kayleigh Malatesta, 7, is in the second grade at the Parker and has participated in the program for the two years. “Her reading has definitely improved. She loves it. It’s nice for her and the people who do it.”
The program, which is for students in grades 1 through 4, has been in place at the Vining Elementary School for 10 years and when the Parker opened their brand new building two years ago, principal Russell Marino decided to incorporate it there, too. About 50 Vining students were redistricted to the Parker, 10 of who were participating in the reading program. Marino said there are 456 students at the Parker, 320 of which are in grades 1 through 4 and he said he hopes the program will expand in years to come, but they need more mentors to volunteer.
“This really is such an important program. I wish every school could have it because every child, from those who struggle to those who excel, could use another grown up in their life,” said Marino.
At and end-of-the-year ceremony held at the Parker on June 12, Linda Winin, program manager, Kaela Vronsky, vice-president of programs, and Phil Harrell, national board member from Read to a Child joined Marino and Read to a Child’s School Coordinator Judy Tolan, in presenting students with certificates and thanking the teachers, parents, and the mentors, who come from Mitre, RSA, EMD Millipore, EMD Serono, Cabot Corporation, and Kofax.
“Thank you for sharing your passion for reading and thank you for making a difference,” said Tolan, who pairs students with mentors, helps select reading material, and oversees the program at the Parker.
Tolan said they have both male and female mentors and they range from those fresh out of college looking to do some community service work to older people whose children have grown up and moved out of the house. She meets with each mentor and each student who has been recommended by a teacher to take part in the program and tries to match up personality types.
Tolan said she had asked the kids how they feel about Read to a Child and many said, “Happy,” “excited,” “thrilled,” and “proud.” She said it’s so fun to listen to the conversations between students and mentors and she gets a kick out of hearing some of the mentors change their voices when they’re reading in order to sound more like the character.
“They make the books come alive for the students and I hear the mentors laugh as much as the kids,” she said.
The boys and girls had a chance to tell the audience some of their favorite books and these included: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Magic Tree House,” “Dork Diaries,” and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” The books can be short books or chapter books that they continue reading together week after week and they can be brought in by the student or the mentor, or chosen from a book cart with up to date children’s literature provided by Read to a Child.
“This is the highlight of my week. I love to see the smiles on their faces,” said Paula Flannery, a mentor from EMD Millipore who reads to second grader Thomas Rodriguez.
Anna Chang, a mentor from RSA smiled at her student, first grader Isaiah Florival, who hid shyly behind a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book. “I love kids. I thought it would be a good opportunity,” she said about the program.
As program manager, Winin approaches local businesses and asks them if they would be interested in having their employees take part in the program. In the meantime, teachers are always on the lookout for students who may have some difficulties with reading, English is their second language, or they lack resources or people at home who have time to read to them. These children are priorities for taking part in the program.
Read to a Child’s program in greater Boston has been in place for 11 years. In the 2013/14 school year, it served more than 700 children in 16 schools in Massachusetts, including the Parker, where Winin said they have been warmly welcomed and very successful. She talked about the importance of longevity when it comes to the mentors and named three people in the room who have been volunteering with the Boston program for four, eight, and 11 years. She reminded the children to visit their local library and keep reading over the summer.
Go to www.readtoachild.org for more information or to learn how you can help.
Educator and author Jessica Lahey reads Shakespeare and Dickens aloud to her seventh- and eighth-graders, complete with all the voices. Her students love being read to, and sometimes get so carried away with the story, she allows them to lie on the floor and close their eyes just to listen and enjoy it. Lahey reads short stories aloud, too: “My favorite story to read out loud has to be Poe’s ‘Tell-tale Heart.’ I heighten the tension and get a little nuts-o as the narrator starts to really go off the rails. So much fun.”
While reading Dickens aloud helps students get used to his Victorian literary style, Lahey said that it’s also an opportunity for her to stop and explain rhetorical and literary devices they wouldn’t get on their own. And they read the Bard’s plays together, divvying up the parts, because “that’s how they are meant to be experienced.”
Reading aloud to older children — even up to age 14, who can comfortably read to themselves — has benefits both academic and emotional, says Jim Trelease, who could easily be called King of the Read-Aloud. Trelease, a Boston-based journalist, turned his passion for reading aloud to his children into The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979; it has since been an unequivocal bestseller with sales in the mult-millions, and Trelease is releasing the seventh, and final, edition in June.
Obviously, Trelease firmly believes in the value of reading to kids of all ages.
“The first reason to read aloud to older kids is to consider the fact that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade,” said Trelease, referring to a 1984 study performed by Dr. Thomas G. Sticht showing that kids can understand books that aretoo hard to decode themselves if they are read aloud. “You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it. Reading at this level happens through the ear.”
Research collected on middle school read-alouds showed that 58 percent of teachers read aloud to their students – and nearly 100 percent of reading and special education teachers. And, while middle-school students reported liking read-alouds, little data has been collected on the “extent and nature” of reading aloud to twelve- to fourteen-year-olds.
“Research indicates that motivation, interest, and engagement are often enhanced when teachers read aloud to middle school students,” wrote research authors Lettie K. Albright and Mary Ariail. Teachers surveyed for the study cited modeling as their number-one reason for reading aloud.
Trelease acknowledged that modelling the pleasure of reading is important, but there are more reasons read-alouds work so well — like “broadening the menu.”
“Let’s take a nine-year-old who’s just finished two solid years of drill and skill, a lot of testing, a lot of work, and they’re competent, but they’re thinking in terms of reading as a sweat experience,” he said. When a teacher reads a good book above student reading level, he show students that the good stuff — the really great books — are coming down the road, if they stick with it.
“Broadening the menu” becomes even more important if a child has difficulties with reading. According to Wandering Eductators’ Dr. Jessica Voigts, who homeschools her daughter Lillie, reading aloud can make reading more pleasurable for someone with dyslexia. “Reading together – with her watching the words as I read, and then her reading to me – is a way to be together, to experience the world, to enjoy a common pleasure. I read to her, about two-thirds of the time, and then she takes over for one-third of the time. We pass the book back and forth, although we’re usually right next to each other,” she said.
And though her daughter struggles, Voigt admitted she reads to Lillie for more than just academic benefits. “This is a time — tweens, teens — when life is full of craziness. This is one way to have a place of rest, of being, something to count on each day. Shared words have power, an energy that you can’t get from TV, radio, or online,” she said.
For Trelease, the power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves. Students might interject questions, comfortably wading into complicated or difficult subjects because they are happening to the characters in the story, and not to themselves. “Why do you think so many children’s stories have orphans as characters? Because every child either worries or fantasizes about being orphaned.”
While Trelease maintained that read-alouds can happen through any device (“Look at all the truckers listening to books on CD,” he said), and Lahey reads from a physical paper book, dogeared and scrawled with all her notes in the margins, both emphasized how students recall read-alouds with fond memories. Trelease recently received a letter from a retired teacher who reconnected online with former students some 30 years later. She wanted to know the one thing her former students remembered about her class.
“Without fail, it was the books she read to them.”
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