Back before the holidays, I signed up for the United Way-organized Raise Your Hand Tennessee program that places volunteers into local schools to read. I thought it would be fun, for a good cause.
I’ve read in schools a couple of times in the past as part of the celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday in March. Also, I was a founding board member of United Way of Bedford County, so I have a connection there. I don’t know if there was one thing or moment that made me decide to sign up, but somehow I did.
When you sign up for the program, you fill out an application (including the necessary information for them to do a background check) and give them a preference for whether you’d like to read with a child one-on-one, read to a small group or read to a full classroom. I checked either of the group options.
Dawn Holley, our local United Way executive director and my co-chair on the organizing committee for the Symphony in Shelbyville concert, assigned me to Learning Way Elementary and it was agreed that I would start after the Christmas holidays.
When I got to the school last Monday, there was a little confusion and I was sent to read with a young fourth-grader one-on-one, the one thing I hadn’t checked on my form. It wasn’t what I was expecting; it went OK, I think, although it was hard for me to know how much help to give him as he read. He was struggling so hard with each individual word that I don’t think he was comprehending the story at all. Every few pages, I’d read for a while, but even so I don’t think he was really connecting.
Anyway, I sort of sheepishly contacted Dawn. If reading one-on-one was what they really needed, I could do it, but if it was just a case of crossed wires, I really would like reading to a group. Dawn checked with the school and got everything straightened out, and so when I went to the school today I spent half an hour each with two different first-grade classes, taught by Regan Aymett and Jennifer Hester. In each class, I worked with a small group of kids in one corner while the teacher and the rest of the class were doing other things.
I had a great time. With the first group, I read “Green Eggs and Ham” and then used flash cards with rhyming words from the story to talk to the kids about rhyming. I love Dr. Seuss, so this was right up my alley. In the other group, each of the kids had a little booklet with a story about visiting an animal habitat. The kids took turns reading the story and then I led them through a worksheet about it.
I’ll be back at Learning Way next Monday – I’m not sure if they will send me back to the same classes or to different ones. I think I’m going to enjoy this. I was told that it’s typical for the male volunteers to want to read to groups and the female volunteers to lean towards one-on-one. In my case, it probably goes to my ham tendencies – the same thing that makes me try out for plays or what have you. Anyway, I had a great time with the kids today and I’m already looking forward to next week.