Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guest Post by Volunteer, Danielle Davis

Today volunteer Danielle Davis posted a wonderful article about her experiences at our October 11, 2014 reading clubs.  Click the link above to go to her blog and read all about it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Guest Post by Volunteer, Selina Vazquez

"Why I Became a Reading to Kids Volunteer"

When I left NYC for Los Angeles last year I knew it would be several months before I went home to visit and I was okay with that. I said my goodbyes, scheduled Skype dates, and set out on my journey. Just a few months in I started feeling like something was off.

I come from a big family. My father was the youngest of nine, each with two to three kids of their own, many of whom now have one or two kids themselves - and that’s just one side of my family! I was surround by children my entire life, so I never really thought much of it. I mean, making up an elaborate story to explain why a helicopter just flew by is normal, isn’t it?

Suddenly thrust into a world without children, I realized how much I’ve always valued, and how much I missed, their unique and imaginative view of the world. So I set out to find an organization that would help fill that vacancy. I stumbled across one or two before discovering Reading to Kids.

That first day I arrived at Alta Loma Elementary a bit unsure what to expect, but I quickly realized I had found an organization that loved and valued kids as much as I do. The volunteers all seemed like old friends, which made perfect sense since many of them have been participating in Reading to Kids’ monthly readings for years. I quickly felt at ease and eager for the reading to begin.

From the very moment we volunteers went out to meet with our groups the excitement was palpable. Kids called out greetings to volunteers, volunteers joked with kids they’ve known for years, and my favorite part, kids all around us were having animated discussions about books. These kids loved reading and were proud of that fact!

I could tell you how fun the story was (The Three Ninja Pigs); I could tell you how animated the kids became as they told us how they would have handled the big bad wolf if he tried to get into their house; I could tell you about the amazing artistic ability of one of the girls; I could give you a list of details, but it would not be possible to fully encapsulate the emotions and joy of the experience.

The Three Ninja Pigs craft (Photo by Annika Fenton)

So instead I will say, if you have been considering volunteering at one of Reading to Kids’ monthly events and hesitating for any reason, just do it!

-Selina Vazquez, Volunteer


If you are interested in sharing your experience with Reading to Kids on our blog, please email us at info@readingtokids.org.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Post by Volunteer, Soyoon Choo

"Sports, Fun, and Games!"

I love all twelve themes of the reading clubs, but November’s College Spirit Month is in my Top 3 favorites. Could there be a better way to plant the seeds of college interest and introduce students to diverse schools beyond high school? As Reading to Kids volunteers, we are the kids’ ambassadors to a bigger world outside the boundaries of their family and schools. It’s also a fun opportunity for volunteers to dust their school gear out of the closet and wear it with pride – as for myself; I have more school spirit on this day than on any USC football game!

Volunteers show off their college gear.
At Los Angeles Elementary School where I regularly volunteer, besides the usual California schools there were many volunteers representing colleges outside the west coast. My reading partner was a college student who was also a Los Angeles Elementary alumnus!

The first grade book and craft supplies.
As usual, we had a bundle of crafty joy ready for our first graders, thanks to our amazing GLCs (Grade Level Coordinators). We also had Autumn & Thanksgiving themed stickers, which were perfect for our post-reading craft time, during which the kids made colorful hand-Turkeys and drew their own Thanksgiving dinner table.

The best part of the day for me was when a student who has been long attending the reading clubs encouraged a first timer to come out to next month’s club. I’ve met several shy kids and it is amazing to see the change and growth every month: watching them begin to use “big words”, become actively engaged in the book and our discussions, and watching as they become Reading to Kids’ own little ambassadors to their peers. At every reading club, I further discover how meaningful the reading clubs are to me and to the kids, and how volunteering is contributing to a greater cause.

Soyoon Choo proudly shows off her certificate for volunteering 10 times!
This month was particularly meaningful for me, as I received my Outstanding Volunteer – Ten Saturday Mornings certificate! It is hanging proudly on my fridge and reminds me how much I love to be part of this amazing community. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Reading to Kids for not only enriching the kids, but also my life as well. Here’s to ten plus more amazing Saturdays to come!

-Soyoon Choo, Volunteer and Special Events Committee Co-Chair

If you are interested in sharing your experience with Reading to Kids on our blog please email us at info@readingtokids.org

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guest Post by Volunteer, Nicole DiCiccio

Being relatively new to Los Angeles, it had been recommended to me that I join Meetup.com to find others in my area with similar interests. I did just that, and am so glad I did, as it has led me to this amazing organization, Reading to Kids!

I was a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect prior to my first adventure at Alta Loma Elementary. Upon arrival, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the number of fellow volunteers, enthusiasm, positive vibes, and organization. Check-in was a breeze, and there were even some yummy bagels to help settle any nerves. The new volunteer orientation provided all of the necessary info and answered every question. I was feeling confident before I even saw a child!
At our November Reading Club we gave away college spirit items, like these cute UCLA Bears!
The third grade was a personal favorite of mine, as it was the year I was finally in the same class as my best friend, got my first puppy, and started writing short stories. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased when I discovered that I had been assigned to read to third graders at Alta Loma. I had purposely not specified a grade when registering, as I wanted to be flexible and available wherever the need was greatest, but I took this pairing as a sign that it was exactly where I was meant to be. Our third grade coordinator matched readers and we introduced ourselves to our partners. He also provided guidelines about what to discuss with the kids when reading our book, and ideas for our arts and crafts time.
Minutes later, we were outside with more than a hundred kids who were shrieking with excitement. My reading partner, Ed, and I marched our kids into the assigned class room and settled right in. We took turns reading our book, which was not a typical story by any means. It was called The Math Curse, and was full of more math problems than narrative. Not a math whiz myself, I feared the kids would lose interest quickly. They proved me wrong, remaining engaged and eager to solve the math curse with every page we turned.
Crafts from our November Reading Club
At the conclusion of the story, our happy little group set out to make our own clocks out of paper plates, crayons, and construction paper. The kids loved it, got super creative, and it provided us with a nice time to chat as we worked. Ed and I got educated about the typical life of a third grader, learning everything from what time they wake up in the morning, to what their favorite school lunch is, to recent movies they had seen. But the best part was the genuine excitement that poured out from each child when they collected their own book to take home and add to their collection - they all truly love reading.
Thinking back on my Saturday morning at Alta Loma, I can't imagine a better first experience for a newcomer. I have already recommended this program to friends of mine. and I cannot wait to get back and read with this great group of kids. It may just be possible that I had more fun than they did- it really was my favorite Saturday morning in Los Angeles!
 -Nicole DiCiccio, Volunteer

If you are interested in sharing your experience with Reading to Kids on our blog please email us at info@readingtokids.org

Monday, October 21, 2013

Guest Post by Volunteer, Wendy Baker

Gratts Elementary x 2
Or, My Second Time Reading at Gratts Elementary School

I couldn’t wait to read A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz —the book designated to be read to the 4th graders on October 12. Sometime during the week I’d fallen under its spell, devouring it in bed each night, and I was dying to read it to the kids. 

You see, it’s a prequel and sequel to the Grimm brothers’ tale of “Hansel and Gretel,” and it’s written in the same shockingly horrid style of the Grimm brothers with running commentary from the author that is both psychologically astute and cynically adolescent—something that I knew the kids would love as they got deeper and deeper into the story.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Psychologically astute comments from the author about the story and the kids love it?” But you’ve got to trust me.

Abel, one of my co-readers that day, read the author’s comments while my other co-reader Andy and I split up reading the story. None of us had worked together before, but judging from the rapport that Abel had with the kids, I knew he’d do a great job. That proved to be an understatement; what a natural! Abel didn’t even sound like he was reading but just sharing his thoughts with the kids. They loved it.

The three of us volunteers had a large group of 15 kids, and many of them had never heard of “Hansel and Gretel,” but it didn’t matter. A good story is a good story.  When we came to difficult words, we’d stop and ask the kids what they thought the word meant in the context that it was being used, and I was surprised at how close they came to the definition. We’d also ask them what they thought was going to happen next—a strategy that elicited wild and crazy responses, mainly from the boys. By the time we finished Chapter 1, the kids were clamoring for more.

A volunteer's craft sample at the October 12th Reading Club.

Then it was time for arts and crafts. Fourth-grade Grade Level Coordinator Claudina Soriano had brought foam Halloween cutouts—some already glittered—with adhesive on the back (no need for those pesky glue sticks that always go missing), which were a big hit. The kids made ghostly, ghastly, and other worldly pictures, each one as unique as they are. When the announcement came that it was time for Raul the magician (back in the auditorium), the kids had had such a good time that they were all like little soldiers about cleaning and straightening up. Then they lined up at the door and we passed out The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan to each one of them (their “gift book”).

A few of the kids asked me how many chapters were in The Red Pyramid, which gave me the chance to show them how they could find that out for themselves by looking in the Table of Contents. The fact that The Red Pyramid had forty chapters seemed quite daunting to the kids, so I asked one little girl how many chapters she was used to reading. “Twelve” was her answer. “Just think how good you’ll feel when you can read forty,” I said, her eyes grew wide and sparkled with excitement.
-Wendy Baker, Volunteer

If you are interested in sharing your experience with Reading to Kids on our blog please email us at info@readingtokids.org