Be a pal and help children learn to read – The News-Press
More than simply learning the ABC’s, volunteers with ReadingPals see their charges beam with confidence as they put sounds together for words.
“They really, really loved the one-on-one attention,” said volunteer Sherry Patterson, a retired early childhood educator who moved to Pelican Preserve in Fort Myers a year ago.
Looking for opportunities, she joined the initiative, now heading into its third year.
United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties is recruiting about 200 volunteers for ReadingPals to read to 4- and 5-year-olds at 16 school sites and 40 classrooms in Lee and Hendry counties.
ReadingPals Manager Nancy Coker said each adult volunteer is assigned two children and works with them for 30 minutes each. The volunteers commit to one hour a week of reading, activities and bonding with the children for the school year.
“You don’t’ have to do a lot,” Coker said. “Show up and be flexible and work with young children who don’t sit still for very long.”
She said teachers choose children who need an extra boost, and the volunteers are often retirees, including former teachers and “some who just love children.”
Patterson said her two pals made great gains throughout the year, gaining maturity as they learned to recognize words.
“My one little boy … was ready to read really simple books to me,” she said. “He prided himself on that tremendously.”
The gains will follow them throughout their lives. According to United Way, children who read at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school.
Pals build a meaningful relationship by providing the individual attention many kids need to thrive. The program is supported by the Children’s Movement of Florida and Publix Super Markets.
Volunteers attend one training session with options from 4 to 6 p.m. Aug. 22, 31, and Sept. 27; or 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 6. Sessions are at 7273 Concourse Drive, Fort Myers.
They also go through a background check.
“I really believe in this program,” Patterson said.
What: The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee ReadingPals literacy initiative pairs volunteers with Pre-K and kindergarten-age children who need extra help.
When: According to volunteers’ schedules, one hour per week of the school year.
Where: At 16 early education centers and schools throughout Lee and Hendry counties. Lee County: Bonita Elementary, Cafferata Elementary, Christa McAuliffe Elementary, Colonial Elementary, The Early Childhood Center, J. Colin English Elementary, Gladiolus Child Development, New Horizons Afterschool in Estero, Orangewood Elementary, Orange River Elementary, Pinewoods Elementary, Sunshine Elementary, and Villas Elementary. Hendry County: Krome Child Development or Children’s Garden in LaBelle and Harlem Academy in Clewiston.