Will you read to me, please?

Volunteer readers sought in West Virginia, especially for middle schools

Volunteer readers sought in West Virginia, especially for middle schools

September 19, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Middle-school students may adopt a persona of being aloof and mature, but go one week without reading aloud to them and they demand to know the reason for the lapse, said Cindy Woods, a librarian at Spring Mills Middle School and former middle-school teacher.

Middle schools are one of the areas being targeted by Read Aloud Berkeley, a nonprofit organization that allows adult volunteers to read once a week in a classroom during the school year.

Just one reader is now present in Spring Mills Middle School, but she received quite a welcome.

One student in particular seemed especially glad to see the volunteer, since she also had read to his fourth-grade class two years ago. The boy yelled her name and ran and hugged the woman, Woods said.


The bonds created between the volunteer and his or her class over a nine-month school year are indicative of the rewards Read Aloud volunteers gain, officials with the program said.

"What a thrill it is," said Dana Phelps, who started by reading to her son's kindergarten class six years ago.

Phelps also trains potential volunteers and sits on the organization's executive board of directors.

Phelps said the county has 185 trained readers, but she estimated at least 50 more volunteers are needed. Programs hopefully can be started at Opequon and Tomahawk elementary schools, as well as the middle schools that have a staff interested in participating. There are only two readers at Eagle School Intermediate School, Phelps said.

Volunteers need not be educators, but must meet one requirement: "A commitment is all it takes," Phelps said.

New readers are asked to participate in a one-hour training session and are given a list of books that are appropriate for the grade level in which they will be reading.

Some books on the list are "Goodnight Moon," "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," "The Polar Express," "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and the "Magic Tree House" series, Phelps said.

One year, Phelps spent five months reading "The Hobbit" to her classroom of fourth-graders and found they knew the story as well or even better than she did.

Another year, she read a book in "The Little House on the Prairie" series to a group of third-graders. Fearing it might be boring, she nearly skipped over a section that dealt with Pa making a door, but instead found the boys to be entranced, Phelps said.

Reading aloud to children can help them develop listening skills and an expanded vocabulary. Volunteers also hope to instill a passion for reading for pleasure.

Tests never are associated with books that are read aloud, Woods said. She said children sometimes will seek additional books by the same author or more books in a series of books that have been used by a Read Aloud volunteer.

A child's attention span also increases from being read aloud to, Phelps said.

"They're so receiving. They just love to listen" she said.

The emotional rewards might outweigh the practical ones, though, volunteers said.

Woods said she has heard from volunteers who believe they are getting as much or more out of the program than the students.

More than once, Phelps has found herself at the mall or grocery store and heard, "Mommy, Mommy, there's my Read Aloud lady!" excitedly voiced in her direction.

Before becoming the librarian at Spring Mills Middle School, Woods was a middle-school language arts teacher. She read to her students then and sometimes sees them now.

"The thing they always remember is what they had read to them," Woods said.

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