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Shared Experiences



Last updated Thursday, December 1, 2005

Volunteering for Reading to Kids is generally a fun experience, and every once in a while, there's an especially remarkable or "magical" moment that you just want to tell all your friends about. Well, this is the perfect place to share your story! To have your story considered for posting, please send it to editor@readingtokids.org.

  

Opened Doors Lead Back to a Familiar Place
by Lillia Vaughan, December 1, 2005
After volunteering with Reading to Kids for the first time, Lillia recalls her days as a young student at Noble Elementary School and wishes to convey a special message to today's children.
I had the opportunity to read to 2nd graders. Much like them, I did not speak English until almost 3rd grade. I remember that most of my school, until that time, was spent in a daze of wonderment.

"What are they saying?" "What are they singing?" "What are all the pictures on the walls?"

They were saying the Pledge of Allegiance. And the pictures on the walls were the past presidents.

I felt so honored on Saturday to be able to give back in an educational capacity. I felt great pride and much empathy for the students. I came from where they are now. I want them to know that there is life beyond their present world. I hope to convey to them that reading and verbal expression are the keys to open many, many doors.

Thank you for the opportunity to give back.

  

A Common Goal
by Veronica S. Cruz, February 10, 2003
Community -- a group sharing common characteristics or interests.
I get to experience the power and impact of our Reading to Kids community the second Saturday of every month. Our volunteers show their caring and dedication to our reading club kids through their creativity and commitment to our cause -- to help inspire children with the love of reading.

Since I’ve been co-site coordinator at Esperanza Elementary School, I’ve seen several examples of our volunteers’ sense of community. There were the volunteers who thought about supplementing our craft bags by donating recycled office stationary to use as construction paper and making a special trip to Costco to obtain markers and crayons so each craft bag’s variety could be enhanced.

Then there was the volunteer who was determined to not miss out on a reading club -- even if it meant driving from San Diego the same morning and sitting in classic Southern California traffic to get there. Unfortunately, this volunteer did not arrive to Esperanza in time to read to the kids. However, her desire to contribute in some way was so high that she helped deliver prize books with as much spirit and enthusiasm as one could expect from a volunteer about to read a book to a group of excited kids!

I always particularly enjoy seeing the relationships the volunteers develop with the kids they read to. Our volunteers care so much about the kids that they’ll express concern if they think a prize book or read-aloud book is too difficult for the kids. They’ll also spend time talking with the kids about their reading club experience and the books the kids are taking home, while everyone gathers in the multi-purpose room. The kids show their excitement and enthusiasm for this connection through the smiles they carry on their faces.

Whether it's by their creativity to figure out a way to engage the kids in a book or by simply caring enough to want to improve our reading club process, our volunteers continue to impress me by their clear understanding of what this is all about -- coming together as a community to help inspire children with the love of reading.

  

Too Little?
by Rich Shimano, December 8, 2001
While reading a story about a very little girl who surprised all the adults by building a huge snowman, two readers were met with a very pleasant surprise of their own!
Sandy and I had a feeling that today was going to be a lot of fun. The book was called The Biggest, Best Snowman, written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. In it, a little girl is told by all the grown-ups that she's just too little to do anything worthwhile. So she decides to go outside, recruit the help of all her animal friends, and build the biggest, best snowman to show the grown-ups that they've underestimated her abilities.

The illustrations were colorful, the book was short enough to hold the second graders' attention spans, and the story was compelling in a sort of "root for the underdog" way. We even had a fun craft project in mind where each child would take one specific component of a snowman, be it an arm or a carrot nose or a stovepipe hat, and create enough of them for our whole group. We would then get some "teamwork action" going at the end to assemble all the parts together so that each child would have their very own snowman to take home to show to their families.

Well, from page one, we had the kids hooked. Second-graders know the alphabet and can read some words, but they are also at a point where they can start to verbalize their perceptions of the thoughts, emotions, and expressions of a story's characters. So when the grumpy aunt and the condescending mother showed their faces at the beginning of the story, and when we play-acted these characters with our own exaggerated facial expressions and pontificating tone, they had a certain excited sense that they knew where this story was heading. Perhaps they identified with the little girl, but their giggles and their very vocal predictions of how the girl was going to build a great big snowman made it clear to us that they wanted to hear more.

As the little girl started to build the snowman, her animal friends were rolling snowballs left and right and up and down the hillside. "Why are they doing that?" we asked, and amazingly, these kids knew that the animals were making the snowballs bigger. We asked if any of the kids had ever been in the snow, and since they all said "No," either they've seen this snowball-rolling technique on TV, or they understood the sequence of illustrations in the book and deduced the result. "Pretty smart kids!" we said to each other.

The first animal pushed the snowball left, then right, then left again, making a curvy S-shaped track in the snow. To demonstrate their knowledge of the alphabet, the kids started yelling, "S! S!" Sandy and I both nodded and said, "Wow, you're right! It's the letter S!"

On the next page, Mr. Bear pushes his snowball up, then down, then up again, while Ms. Rabbit pushes her snowball around in a big circle. The kids all started yelling "No! No!" We asked, "What's wrong? Don't we want them to build a snowman?" And the kids replied, "No! They spelled the word 'No!'" Sure enough they were right, but we didn't really want to go off on this tangent of connecting these random snow tracks to letters or numbers that they might resemble, so we pushed ahead.

Page after page, we watched as the animals rolled these snowballs up and down, left and right, and by the end, the little girl had gotten the three big snowballs assembled into the shape of a snowman. The kids started yelling "Snowman! Snowman!" so Sandy and I nodded in approval and said "Yes, yes, they've built a snowman!" But then the kids surprised us.

"Go back!" they yelled. "Go back and turn the pages! They spelled snowman! S-NO-WM-A-N!" We were shocked. We were so caught up in reading the story that we didn't even notice that the tracks in the snow spelled "snowman." "What a clever illustrator!" we thought, until we realized, "What clever kids!"

Although we played it off as though we knew about the kids' observation all along, I think we were both a little embarassed that, like the grumpy aunt and condescending mother, we underestimated the observational and analytical skills of these kids. But in the end, we felt a certain satisfaction and pride, knowing that the kids got some good out of the reading club experience that day and that we, the grown-ups, did too.