Many thanks to my friend Amanda for taking on every Wednesday to do service!! This post was written by her!
About a year ago, I finished a Masters. Single and childless, I suddenly had quite a bit of free time. Not all the time in the world, but enough that I knew that if I didn’t do something productive with my time, I’d spend a lot of time after work sitting on the couch watching mindless television. Volunteering somewhere crossed my mind, but I didn’t know where or doing what.
So, I spent a lot of time sitting around watching mindless television until early this summer, when a friend finished his Masters in May and was already announcing that he’d found volunteer work with the National Park Service!
Inspired, I got off my duff (metaphorically, since I did this next step on my computer) and found an organization I could feel good about working with – Reach Out and Read (www.reachoutandread.org &
www.twitter.com/reachoutandread), which advocates literacy for children.
From their website:
Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud.
Pediatric healthcare providers (including pediatricians, family physicians, and pediatric nurse practitioners) are trained in the three-part Reach Out and Read model to promote early literacy and school readiness:
• In the exam room, doctors and nurses speak with parents about the importance of reading aloud to their young children every day, and offer age-appropriate tips and encouragement.
• The pediatric primary care provider gives every child 6 months through 5 years old a new, developmentally-appropriate children's book to take home and keep.
• In the waiting room, displays, information, and books create a literacy-rich environment. Where possible, volunteer readers entertain the children, modeling for parents the pleasures - and techniques - of reading aloud.
Now, every Wednesday afternoon, I spend 90 minutes as a volunteer reader in a pediatric waiting room. I’ve armed myself with a variety of children’s books, mostly picture books and fairy tale anthologies. I sit on the floor, at child level, and spread out the books around me. As children enter the room and look in any way interested in the books, I ask if they would like to read with me. I let them pick out a book and I read to any willing to listen.
It’s so much fun! I’ve always felt drawn to the importance of literacy for all ages, and modeling good reading behavior is definitely a start. It’s fun to watch the kids get excited about a story or a certain book and to talk to them about as we read. I also keep an eye on the parents, and it makes me happy to see them interested in what their child is doing. Today, one of the boys I was reading to, picked up a book and took it back to his father, who read to him. That’s even better than me doing it!
One thing that’s a little different from most Reach and Out Read clinics is that I’m reading in the waiting room of a WIC clinic to underprivileged children, mostly minorities. They won’t grow up in the same kind of house I did, filled with wonderful books and making weekly trips to the local library. Most the kids I see are Hispanic, which is why I’ve started bringing in bilingual books in both English and Spanish. It gives me a chance to practice my second language and let them hear a story in their first.
I’m really enjoying this chance to serve, and it only takes a few minutes of my week, so I still have time for mindless television. If it’s something you might like, check their website and see if there is a Reach Out and Read center in your neighborhood!
Hooray for reading!
Check out Amanda's blog, the Book Guardian!
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