By Tricia Elder | AARP Experience Corps
Volunteer! Help Children Read. “Hey, that sounds like fun. I bet I could do that,” I thought when I saw the ad in Concordia News.
But I’m no teacher. What could I really do? Would I be in a classroom? Choose my own books? Would the teacher guide me? How much time would it take?
The answers are: I’m in a classroom, I can choose my own books and word games or use those provided, I have guidance and input from the teacher, and I’m in class about eight hours every week but I could be there as few as four.
Volunteers who earn a stipend serve about 10 hours a week.
When I contacted Metropolitan Family Service (MFS), which administers the AARP Experience Corps program, I learned it’s nationwide and has been operating for many years.
Older adult volunteers are carefully screened, interviewed by MFS staff, and given 12 hours of training in literacy strategies and building relationships before being assigned to classrooms that have requested them. More training is conducted throughout the year.
Teachers identify four vulnerable students who would benefit from tutoring and match them to a volunteer with whom the children will work one-on-one or in small groups. Although volunteers work most intensely with their matches, they also provide literacy assistance to other children while in the classroom.
I’ve been at Prescott Elementary for the past four years, the past two years in kindergarten. What a dramatic difference it makes to work with young children! In just a few minutes at a time a few days a week, a child can learn not just letters and sounds, but words and sentences.
Today I worked with two of my matches playing a rhyming game they enjoy. We put letters in front of “at” to make these words: cat, chat, bat, brat, fat, flat, sat, spat, splat, that. I did not read the words to them; they sounded out and read the words to me.
These kids are 5 and 6. I’m matched to them because they needed help in October and, after just a few months of reading and playing with words to augment regular classroom instruction, they’re flying!
Please consider volunteering for our Experience Corps team, and help children read. Hey, it’s fun and you really can do that.
Email email@example.com or call 503.290.9427 and I’ll see you next autumn.
Tricia Elder volunteers for AARP Experience Corps and performs data input for the Sierra Club. She also maintains an online real estate database for surveyors and lenders working in the rural Texas county where she and husband Steve lived previously. Tricia is happy every day to wake up in her Concordia neighborhood.