Volunteering

How do you teach a child to read?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately because our school district is working really hard to get volunteers to come in and read with the kids and take Accelerated Reading tests with them.  It sounds like a great idea on the surface but it isn’t.  These people are mostly untrained and many of them have little experience with children.  They don’t know how the computer system works but more than that, they don’t know anything about reading except that they learned when they were little.

I’m not saying volunteers are bad.  On the contrary, I am one, I think it’s the best way to impact your community.  Especially in the schools.  Volunteers MUST be trained though.  If they were being hired for a pay position, we would train them for weeks before setting them out on their own.  Not so with volunteers.

There needs to be a training guide.  I met a very nice older lady yesterday that was volunteering for the reading program yesterday.  She had no idea what to do or how to do it.  She was nervous and so was I.  Basically all she knew to do was sit with a child and read to them or have them read to her and then they needed to take a test that she knew nothing about.  That won’t help those kids so it really is a waste of her time.  She should have been trained on HOW to teach reading.  Then she could help the children she works with develop their reading skills and become better readers.  As it is, she can do nothing but keep the kids at status quo or worse, they will stop reading and let her do it all and loose some of their new skills due to lack of practice.

I should point out that I don’t blame the lady or any of the volunteers that go untrained in the area they work in.  It is the responsibility of the group, company or organization to train their people properly before sending them out.

But I was thrown in when I was young (many years ago! lol) and had to learn as I went.  I did more than learn from the people around me though.  I began researching children and child development and learning patterns, etc.  I wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing.  Research also comes naturally to me because I used to be a newspaper journalist.  I never decide what I believe until I think I know as many facts as I can find out.  Some things we just don’t know or understand yet so I have to form an oppinion based on what I can learn about a subject thus far.

That’s why I have decided to do this next series about reading.  We can train ourselves if we have the information.  Some of this series I will give you specific scientific research but some of  it will be what I have learned from my more than 25 years of working with children through the many childcare situations I’ve been in and the teaching positions I have held as well as my experience as a volunteer.