Last March after attending the Social Innovation conference at Light City, inspiration overcame inertia and I googled Reading Partners. On their website I clicked “Volunteer Here” and completed the form. Within an hour I received an email message from Alexis Acciani connecting me with Arnetra Burnett, the coordinator for Matthew Henson Elementary School in Sandtown. My first session was set for the following Monday morning. In the interim I went to Baltimore City Public Schools admin building on North Avenue to be fingerprinted for a background check, which I passed.
At my first session I met Arnetra in the Reading Center, a classroom set up with pairs of school desks and low library shelving. Arnetra assigned me to work with a 4th-grade student named Destiny. After picking up Destiny from her classroom, we met in the Reading Center for about 45 minutes every Monday morning until the end of the school year. Destiny was a good reader but, like me, tended to rush a bit and benefited from extra focus on comprehension. After a few weeks of getting to know each other we settled into a good routine.
Reading Partners uses a packaged curriculum that includes instructor guides and reading materials for each level. Each session starts with reading aloud by both volunteer and student, from a book selected by the student. Then the curriculum lesson begins. At Destiny’s level we learned how to recognize the writer’s message and make inferences from clues in the story and pictures.
I’ll be paired with a different student this year, since 4th graders age out of the Reading Partners program in Baltimore. I am excited about helping a new young friend master basic skills that I enjoy so much in my own life, and never take for granted.
Volunteering with Reading Partners is easy and worthwhile. To sign up, just go to their website. If you prefer to work with adults, try Strong City Baltimore’s Adult Learning Center, available online here.