She looked forward every week to reading with “her kids.” She was so proud of them – proud of the progress they made. She even displayed photos of a couple of “her kids” in her living room. She loved sharing stories about “her kids” with me. She would save little trinkets such as stickers and pencils and bookmarks as little rewards to give them each week.
I know that SMART is all about the kids but truthfully, I could see firsthand how SMART is also all about those who generously volunteer their time. I’m quite certain that my grandmother got as much out of her time with the kids as they did.
Somewhere out there I like to think that there are a few kids, now probably in their 20′s, who are good readers with a love of books because my grandmother took the time to simply sit down and read with them. I hope they remember my beautiful, gray-haired grandmother and the moments they shared together. I know she did.]]>
1st story is from this week first week back and SMART. Meeting my kindergarden boy, we picked a book to read and I was reading and every word he would make the sound to the beginning letter of the word I was saying. I was thinking “wow, this kid is really into this, loving the alphabet…” Then when I closed the book in his “outside voice” says “that was boring” and every adult in the room was laughing, it was awesome!
My other story is two years ago I had a little girl I was reading to. Then one day I came and she wasn’t in SMART anymore because she needed more than SMART could offer. I was bummed we were never told and able to say “goodbye.” Fast forward to last year – I was at SMART at the beginning of the year and guess who comes in the room? She runs across the room and gives me a huge hug it was wonderful. She wasn’t who I was reading to but it still touched my heart!]]>
Over the years, I’ve had a wide variety of children as I’ve volunteered at four different schools. I’ve had the extremely shy, hyper active, short-attention span, advanced readers and ESL students. I’ve had my favorite and not-so favorite kids. However, every year I’ve experienced seeing how much joy each children eventually get out of reading or learning a new skill such as reading with emphasis, I’m reminded how great this program is.
I’ll never forget a 2nd grader who seemed to be a bit of a bully to other kids, who consistently ran ahead to the SMART room and hid from me. He always wanted me to read to him and wasn’t interested in picking out his own books. As he gained more confidence and read more and more indiviual words he eventually chose a Bob book. As he neared the end of the book, I could see his excitement grow. When he finished the story, he stood up with the book in his hand and shouted to the entire room, “I read the entire book by myself!”
As a person who has chosen not to have children, this is has been a great way for me to be connected to my community.]]>
In the weeks ahead, I tried every approach that had worked so well in the past, but Christian showed little interest in those wonderful books. Progress was slow.
It was early in February when he picked up Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel. There was a spark of interest , and he grew to simply love those stories. We laughed about their amusing adventures, and we talked about what was funny, sad, scary or happy. We played games: “Christian, how many times can you find the word Frog in this story?” “Seven”,cries Christian triumphantly. After we had enjoyed all four books in the series, Christian began to choose other books.
Finally, it was the last day of SMART for the year. Of course, we chose to read a Frog and Toad book. I asked Christian if he had a friend like Frog or Toad,someone to play with, someone to help him, someone he realy liked. He paused for a moment and then answered “yes”. “What’s your friend’s name?” I asked. “It’s you”. he said. Holding back tears, I assured him that he was my very dear friend,too. We said our goodbyes hoping we would be reading together again in the fall.
Christian did not return. I hope that wherever he is he still remembers our happy times sharing books. As for me, in my heart we will always be Frog and Together.]]>
I’ve been a volunteer with SMART in Lane County for 10 years. Four years ago I became one of a three-member Coordinating team at Riverbend Elementary School. And I’m proud to be a member of the local Leadership Chapter. In all the years I’ve been involved, I have consistently observed that SMART’s community of volunteers is a proven success, co-efficient for each young reader’s life success formula. The community benefits don’t stop there. SMART’s successful mission radiates out, not only to the daily associations of the volunteers themselves: friends, family, work associates and social networks, but also from our SMART kids. The result is a sustaining process of teamwork where each part can grow and benefit from being a part of the whole, but, too, where the whole, that of improving community literacy, has an even greater impact.
One of my SMART kids said “When I read a book, I like to climb inside it and pretend I’m one of the characters – I love to read!” Another boy excitedly remarked “My family speaks Spanish, but they don’t read me Spanish at home. I want to learn how to read it!” as we recorded the title 1001 First Words in Spanish as his Give Away Take Home Book. He was really looking forward to sharing that book at home with his parents.
This is what SMART is – and what it achieves. Like a pebble dropping into a puddle of water, the ripples of success spread far and wide.]]>