A few weeks ago, I wrote here about my experiences reading to at-risk children in Muscogee County.
I told some random stories, as I am known to do, and shared the random theory that children would be more successful in life if they could see some real animals when they were 4 or 5 years old.
Anyway, since then quite a few people who read that column have asked me who runs the program and how they can get involved.
Whoops. Talk about leading people to pasture and not letting them drink.
Here it goes:
The Literacy Alliance conducts the Kindergarten Readiness Program, which gives community members the opportunity to read classic children's books to individual 4- and 5-year-olds who are considered to be developmentally at-risk and need to build their word skills and vocabulary before starting kindergarten.
Volunteers read at various elementary schools. This spring I'm reading to a boy and a girl at Davis Elementary, and in past years I read at the now-closed Muscogee Elementary.
Books include "Good Night Moon," which encourages children to hunt for the little mouse hidden on each page; "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," which encourages children to learn something about nature and to talk incessantly about their favorite foods; and "Silly Sally," which encourages children to walk backwards down hallways and try to stand on their heads.
All while teaching them to read and to ask questions about the world around them.
The program is about to break for the summer, but it's not too early to volunteer for next year. Contact the Literacy Alliance by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 706-748-2609.
If you prefer working with adults, you could volunteer to help with the group's adult literacy class.
Now for that random story and theory.
One of my reading buddies was a little boy labeled as non-verbal. Of course, he didn't say much and had a limited vocabulary, and he struggled to identify letters and numbers.
Then one day, while I was reading him "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," he picked up the little pencil sharpener and started sharpening the colored pencils.
At first, I told him to put down the pencils and pay attention. But a funny thing happened. He couldn't keep his hands off the pencils, so I gave up and just kept reading.
While he was sharpening the pencils, he kept his eyes on the book. In fact, he started talking about the story and pointing out details in the drawings and even identifying letters and words.
He was transformed. Something about working with his hands sparked his mind to learn and grow.
That kind of thing could never have happened in a classroom, where sharpening pencils would have distracted other students, and where teachers don't have the time to identify and encourage each child's individual learning style.
But it does happen all the time in an one-on-one setting.
So if you like the idea of reading to children, I'd definitely encourage you to do so.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, email@example.com.