Sunday, December 3, 2023

Got time? Why not volunteer in this reading program for children

Virginia Beach READS is looking for volunteer mentor/tutors to help first graders reach their full reading potential. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The city’s early childhood initiative, GrowSmart Foundation, is searching for volunteers to mentor and tutor in their First Grad READS program for the upcoming school year.

The program’s volunteer resource manager, Kelsey Harkins, said volunteers are working in six elementary schools around the community providing one-on-one time with striving first-graders who their teachers have determined “need extra help” to meet their target reading level.

Harkins said the first grade is a crucial time for learning and getting them into the program at that age “helps provide a foundation early.”

First Grade READS works in partnership with local campaign Virginia Beach READS and according to their website, “a child who does not read proficiently by third grade is four times more likely than a skilled reader to drop out of school without earning a diploma.”

Volunteers are in the classroom and under the supervision of the school’s staff during a child’s scheduled reading time as not to “disrupt but supplement or enhance their reading skills,” Harkins said.

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Harkins also said this is a long term volunteer opportunity and dedicating one-to-two hours a week from October to May will help “mold a child into a person who loves reading and learning.”

“We emphasize this is a mentor and tutor program where ideally the volunteer is creating a foundation of trust with a child and then maintaining that relationship over time,” she said.

If those interested can’t commit to every week, Harkins said substitute volunteers who fill-in are a “huge piece to the program.”

All volunteers must be over the age of 18 to fill out an application, pass a background check, and go through an initial and annual two-hour training session where they’ll learn about the program, mentoring, and lesson planning.

And, as an added layer of security, Harkins said volunteers are also required to sign in by scanning their state ID at the assigned school’s “Raptor System” and wear a printed sticker with their photo and name while inside the building.

Virginia Beach READS is a member of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and recently received the honor of being named a “Pacesetter” community for their impact on reading, kindergarten readiness, and summer learning reading proficiency.

“It’s a testament to where we are in Virginia Beach, and where we’re going,” Harkins said.

Harkins noted the opportunity to apply as a First Grade READS volunteer is ongoing but ideally she’d like to have as many as 115 volunteers by early October.

For more information and how to apply, click here.

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