By Lauren Goodwin
Reading has always been a big part of Jayne Olthuis’ life, librarian at Memorial Elementary. She coordinates and manages the Read Houston Read program at her school and says she loves the experience. Memorial Elementary has a great after-school program from 3pm-6pm and is a way for students to do activities with fellow classmates while they wait for their parents. Ms. Olthuis had the great idea of conducting Read Houston Read during this time as the kids are already at school and it gives volunteers a reason to leave work a little earlier once a week.
The volunteers love coming here and taking a break from their busy work schedule. The kids love it too. They are so happy to be in the classroom with volunteers, most they’ve known since the beginning of the school year. The Read Houston Read program isn’t simply sitting and reading to a child or having them read to you, it involves a bond that takes place and a friendship that develops. “It’s not just tutoring, it’s more like mentoring, what these volunteers do with these kids, they are helping them succeed,” Ms. Olthuis shares.
Katie Meeks is a volunteer from Deloitte who makes a short trip every week to be with her little partner for an hour, taking time from her 17 month old baby. “I wanted to volunteer for a literacy-based organization, and this just fit,” she says. Before working for Deloitte as a tax manager, Katie had worked with kids in social work, reading bedtime stories to children at Helping Hand Home, an organization helping abused, neglected, and abandoned children. What Katie loves about the program is working with kids, which she has a passion for, but also the effect it has on them. They learn and grow each time she makes the visit.
Another volunteer I was able to speak with was Peg Patrick, the upper class librarian at St. John’s School. Peg loves her students and the faculty at her school, but comes to Memorial to tutor and mentor a child in need. Ms. Olthuis emphatically praises Ms. Patrick for structurally tutoring the children she’s assigned to. She worked with a rather difficult child last school year that didn’t like to pay attention, but Ms. Patrick says she worked with him diligently and even wanted to tutor him over the summer for free. However, sadly, he and his family moved away and she didn’t get a chance to. We hope he is doing much better after tutoring with Ms. Patrick.
We all work and have lives to lead, but it’s easy to take an hour just once a week to tutor and mentor a child who needs it. There are a lot of schools in the city that participate in Read Houston Read and are looking for quality people to help out. The term, “It takes a village”, has never been truer. It takes a village to raise a child and a community to teach them to read.
If you’d like to find out more about Read Houston Read, which you should, please visit Connect4Literacy.org and register as a volunteer.