Catherine Geis

Catherine Geis holds a Focused Literacy Involvement Program ("FLIP") kit that she uses during her 30-minute reading sessions with a child.

Catherine Geis holds a Focused Literacy Involvement Program ("FLIP") kit that she uses during her 30-minute reading sessions with a child.

Meet Catherine Geis, a volunteer in HISD's Read Houston Read program. Read Houston Read is a mentoring program in which volunteers work one-on-one with first- and second-graders once a week to promote a love of reading, as well as to boost comprehension, vocabulary and reading fluency levels. During the 30-minute session with a child, Catherine reads a book and completes a related activity using Focused Literacy Involvement Program ("FLIP") kits developed by the Children's Museum of Houston.

Catherine has been a Read Houston Read volunteer for a few years now. She goes above and beyond when working with Piney Point Elementary School's struggling readers. Although most Read Houston Read volunteers spend 30 minutes to an hour at a school, Catherine currently spends eight hours a week at Piney Point mentoring and inspiring children to become strong and life-long readers. Catherine first came across the program while searching for a volunteer opportunity after retirement. She discovered Read Houston Read to be a great way for her to give back to the community. She believes it is vital that children understand how important reading is in their lives.

Catherine shared this special story with us. Last year she gave books to the students she mentored to start their own home libraries. While volunteering this year, she saw one of the students who expressed to her how excited he was to be able to read her book. Later she ran into another student to whom she had given a book and was surprised to hear him say that he read it and was carrying around the book in his backpack. When the child pulled out the book, Mrs. Geis observed that the book was quite worn, an indication that it was quite loved. To Mrs. Geis these interactions were confirmation that her volunteer work was in fact making a difference in the lives of the readers she inspires on a weekly basis. Thank you, Mrs. Geis, (in case you are wondering, I added two commas for direct address) for going above and beyond with your volunteer efforts in our community!

If you would like to become a Read Houston Read mentor or sign up for other literacy-related volunteer opportunities, learn how by going to Connect4Literacy.org, which is a volunteer management website we host on behalf of more than 38 organizations, including HISD. Make literacy your cause by giving of your time and talent.
 

Jaye McAfee

Jaye McAfee sorts books with daughter Aaliyah and members of the Girl Scout troop at Books between Kids.

Jaye McAfee sorts books with daughter Aaliyah and members of the Girl Scout troop at Books between Kids.

Throughout the year the Children's Museum of Houston circulates 13,000 Family Literacy Involvement Program ("FLIP") kits to 39 Houston Public Library branches for families to check out and use at home with their children to help build strong literacy skills. On December 21, as part of our family-friendly holiday volunteer opportunities, community members gave their time to clean and restock FLIP Kits for circulation around our community. It was here that we first met Jaye McAfee and her daughter Aaliyah.

One week later, Jaye and her daughter volunteered again at the Books Between Kids warehouse, this time joined by members of Aaliyah's Girl Scout troop Victoria Jackson, Allison Shackelford, and Abigail Shackelford. Here they helped inventory, sort, and box children's books to be distributed to low income HISD Elementary schools. When asked what brought her and the girls out to volunteer this holiday season, Jaye stated, "My girls have been blessed with so much. I want them to know that it's important to always give back and help others that are not as fortunate."

We are grateful to members of the McAfee family and their friends for giving of their time in service to others and encourage you to do so in 2017 by signing up and serving through Connect4Literacy.org.

Iris Griffiths

Iris Griffiths

With her sparkling eyes and heavy Irish accent, Iris Griffiths is the epitome of someone you would want reading to your kids on a hot summer morning.  At the HYPE Freedom School in Houston’s Third Ward, Iris entertained children and a few lucky adults by reading and discussing Stella Luna, the story of a baby bat raised by a family of birds.

Roshan Patel

Roshan Patel

Growing up in a little 40 family village in India, Roshan Patel was one of six children who had the privilege of attending boarding school for 12 years to receive an exceptional education. Roshan’s parents chose to spend their hard earned money on their son’s education by paying for him to attend such a prestigious school. “After I finished seventh grade in boarding school in India, my parents decided to move our family to the United States so my brother and I could receive a better education and have a brighter future,” Roshan said.  

Nancy Perez

Nancy Perez

Nancy Perez is a first-generation college student currently attending California State University and about to enter her senior year. During her time at CSU, Nancy has worked for Phillips 66 in their Communication and Public Affairs Department and is currently interning for the company in Texas for a year to gain extra training and skills. “I feel as though Phillips 66 truly cares about me because they are investing time and money. I feel that they believe in me,” Nancy states.

Jimmy Greenwood

Jimmy Greenwood

Jimmy Greenwood, a native Houstonian, has always had a passion for community service. He feels very passionate about making a difference in the lives of young children and for them to have the same opportunities that he had as a child. Jimmy says, “I had a very blessed childhood due to my supportive parents. Every child deserves to have someone encouraging them to learn along the way.”

Jarvis Hodges

Jarvis Hodges

Jarvis Hodges, 23, has attended the HYPE Freedom School at Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church since he was a little boy. Now, he gladly serves as a volunteer and teaches a group of young boys. "I have never had the privilege to attend a true summer camp, but then I went to HYPE and I learned so much. I learned that reading is not always boring," said Jarvis. 

Libby Bender

Libby Bender

Libby Bender was born and raised in Houston, Texas and attended Memorial High School. During high school, she developed an interest in marketing and communications and decided to follow that passion as she entered college. Libby is a currently a rising sophomore at

Shreya Sahdev

Shreya Sahdev

Growing up in India and Malaysia, Shreya has experienced a lot of changes over the past year as Houston, Texas has become her new home. Moving to a new country, leaving some of her friends and memories behind, she didn’t know what to expect as she entered the United States for the first time. 

Cindy Puryear

Cindy Puryear

After discussing what could be done to help fix this issue, Cindy answered, "What we need to do is recognize that it is about early intervention. We cannot be waiting until children are in the 3rd grade, in danger of not being able to pass a standardized test, to get them to start reading. We need to start very early."

Makaya Taylor

After asking Makaya Taylor if she likes to read, her bright smile faded. 5-year-old Makaya does not know how to read. "I don't like to go to school," Makaya said. "I pretend that I am sick."

But after asking Makaya what her favorite story to be read too is, she stood up smiling and replied, "My favorite story is 'Frozen.' because I want to be like Elsa."

Elizabeth Campbell

Elizabeth Campbell

She continues, with a smile, “Reading is the magic of my life. It is the main way I continue to learn as an adult, and is my very favorite thing to do. It is my escape as well as my experience – I will get lost in beautiful fiction for hours and escape the mundane trivialities of responsible adulthood, or have a deeply empathetic experience with biographies and nonfiction."

Victoria Villarreal

Victoria Villarreal

Growing up in South Houston, near Pearland, Victoria has always been interested in politics and what happens in the world around her and beyond. As a daughter of parents who have always been involved in service, she learned to become intuitive about her surroundings.

Ashley Danna

Ashley Danna

When I was a kid, I knew I wanted to change the world – no matter how insignificant that change may be. Just like any other millennial, I wanted to make my mark. My impact. My legacy. It terrified me to think that I would leave this world in the same condition as it was when I arrived. In my opinion, there is something to be said for being a millennial.

Jose Paulo Calvillo

Jose Paulo Calvillo

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Jose Paulo Calvillo and his two brothers focused on making good grades to better themselves for the future. Their mother, a teacher, and their father, a civil service worker and assistant principal during Jose’s grade school years, instilled the value of education early on and encouraged their boys to apply themselves to achieve success. 

Dwight Howard at the Houston Zoo

Dwight Howard at the Houston Zoo

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation was honored to participate in this great event hosted by the D12 Foundation at The Houston Zoo. Dwight spent some time in the morning with Jr. Zookeeper, JonMitchell Goode, an 8th grade student at McReynolds Middle School, who was selected by his essay on how he would be an excellent zookeeper. 

Susan

Susan

Susan’s passion for reading began at a very young age and has continued throughout her life.  This clearly was a family trait and when Susan spoke of her mom, she said, “She was a big influence in my life”. Her mom was a librarian at a medical school. 

Arianne Watkins

Arianne Watkins

Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Arianne Watkins spent her childhood with her mother and maternal grandparents. She was exposed to reading, writing, puzzles and games (colored rings as a baby, then Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Scrabble, Taboo, Boggle, etc). 

Reginald Young

Reginald Young

Reginald Young serves as an Agency Services Representative at the Houston Food Bank, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes food to hunger relief charities throughout the Greater Houston area. Reginald says that he is aware of a gap in children being read to by their parents and that this effects their chances of graduating from high school.