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By: Derek Lisinski, dedicated Read to a Child volunteer since 2002

No matter what a child looks to do in life, literacy is extremely important. The lunchtime reading program engenders that love of reading, and a child will carry that with them throughout life.

For several years in the 1990’s, I volunteered at local schools in Cambridge and Somerville. However, in 2001 I moved out of the city and was interested in new volunteer opportunities that could fit my schedule while commuting from the suburbs.  As it happened, I spoke to a friend and she introduced me to Olivia Mathews – then the Executive Director of Everybody Wins Metro Boston, and now the CEO of Read to a Child.  I met with Olivia and was immediately captivated, not only by the mission of the organization to bring the joy of reading to children in need, but also the ability to do it during the normal course of my work week.

I started to volunteer at the Morse School in Cambridge and immediately read one of my favorites as a child, “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.  My student had heard of the book but had never read it so I was happy to be able to introduce it to him. He seemed to love it as much as I did!  We had a great year together revisiting some books that I suggested, as well as some he was really excited about.

At the end of that school year, I was disappointed to hear that our office was moving from Cambridge to Bedford. I called Olivia to let her know that I would not be able to continue reading.  As it turned out, the program was also at a Billerica school just a few miles from my new office, so I was able to stay as a reader!  I started there in 2003 and I am now reading to my 3rd student and continuing to enjoy it every week. Not only is my student excited to see me, but I’m excited to take a break from my work week and spend some time losing myself in a book with him.

After reading for a few years, I was approached to be on the Boston Board, which I was very happy to do.  I saw how the program offered adults a simple and meaningful way to affect the life of a child and to be able to do so with a minimal time commitment.  I also see how children are able to draw on the excitement of their mentor and really get into the stories – they amazingly start to look forward to and seek out opportunities to read themselves!  I saw joining the Boston Board as a way to further support the organization and hopefully expand the program to many more students in the greater Boston area.  I was on the Board for six years and served as Chairman for part of that time.  I, along with the other dedicated members of the Board, were able to put together an expansion plan that – although I originally thought it was aggressive – was able to grow the program from 4 to 14 schools and from just a few hundred to nearly 1,000 students served.  I am extremely proud of my time on the Boston Board and that we were able to achieve this goal of bringing the joy of reading to so many children.

Every year I have participated in the lunchtime reading program, I have been able to see the benefits to the child and also feel that I am doing something very worthwhile and valuable.  I feel good about being a positive influence and I can do it all with just about an hour of my time per week.  With each child to whom I have read, I have seen that they gain more excitement and enjoyment from reading.  In speaking with their teachers and parents, I have also heard they are seeking out books to read on their own more than they did before they started in the program.  It is an unbelievable feeling to see that you can have an effect on someone so young – and hopefully put them in a position to be more successful as they move through school and life.  As each year ends, whether I am going to continue with the same student or I am starting with a new student, I look forward to the school year and the opportunity to be able to participate in and support this amazing program that does so much for children’s literacy.

If you would like to join me in supporting Read to a Child, Ticket Buttonplease consider attending Read to a Child’s 12th Annual Gala on Thursday, November 6th at the Boston Common Hotel! www.readtoachildgala.eventbrite.com