Youngsters hone their reading skills

Volunteers give young readers a boost

Volunteers give young readers a boost

April 12, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT - Retiree Ken Butler sat scrunched on a bench of a cafeteria table reading with 7-year-old Abby Mills during a weekly session at Fountain Rock Elementary School.

On this particular Wednesday, Butler and his fellow Williamsport Rotarian, Dr. Richard A. Young, were in attendance at the school on Lappans Road as part of the service club's commitment to lend their members' skills to help youngsters improve their reading.

Started years ago by members of the nearby St. James Brethren Church, the reading program has continued and recently added the talents offered by the Williamsport Rotary Club members.

Young was paired with Luke Conway, 6, a first-grade student who said he needs a little help with reading.

"Sometimes I get the words wrong and this helps," Luke said.

As they read together, Luke came to the word "soccer" and once he had said it out loud, he turned to Young and smiled, telling the retired physician that he likes soccer, too - like the character in the book.


Aaron Hann, 8, also was reading with Young.

"Some words are hard and I don't get the punctuation right," Aaron said.

Enjoying the help and the attention, Aaron said his favorite reading material is scary stories.

An engineer by profession who was educated at West Virginia University, Butler said he has no formal training in teaching, but nonetheless, he thinks he can contribute to the effort at Fountain Rock.

"I went back to school and got a degree in fine arts at Shepherd in 1997," Butler said.

He said he enjoys the reading program and working with Abby. Together, they followed along in the book she was reading, him listening and occasionally helping her sound out a word.

"It's really helping me with my reading," Abby said. A budding artist, Abby said she wants to illustrate books when she grows up.

Young said the effort is a good way to volunteer. A pediatrician by training, Young spent a lot of time working with children in his professional career. "And I taught at the nursing school at the hospital, so I have some experience in teaching," he said.

Two women from St. James Brethren also were reading to students when the Rotarians were there recently.

"I've been reading with the kids for several months," Phyllis Barr said. "My husband and I tutored before and now I'm getting back into it - I really enjoy it."

In addition to the reading program, the Williamsport Rotary is actively working to preserve a local historic cemetery, providing playground equipment at Byron Memorial Park, and is sending young people to a Rotary youth program at Juniata College.

Whatever the reason for the reading tutor program, Fountain Rock Principal Timothy Abe said he is pleased the tutors are coming to his school.

"Any second of any day when adults sit down to read with kids is a good day," Abe said. "I see the smiles on the kids' faces - the children look forward to it."

Turns out the matchup between Butler and young Abby was a good fit. In fact, Butler said he was so impressed with Abby's improving reading skills that he planned to bring some harder books from home the next time he came.

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