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

Friday, May 17, 2013



Greetings, Volunteers!

We had a blast reading with you on May 11th!  This month 704 kids, 323 volunteers, 80 parents, and 20 teachers & staff joined us for a morning of “Fantasy, Folklore, and Fairytales.” 

Together we discovered a world of enchanted pottery, wishing sticks, dragons, princes, and even the occasional talking fox! Thank you for making these stories jump off the page and for lending your artistic talents to our craft time. We saw fantastic Mother’s Day cards, wishing sticks, and animal masks on display at Charles White Elementary! 

Volunteers also joined us for Legendary Bingo at Hamburger Mary's this past Wednesday night. We enjoyed a full house of bingo players and Reading to Kids fans.  Bingo Boy and his Bingo Hostesses, Willam and Roxy, kept the games hopping and the energy flowing. Our 10 bingo winners were delighted with the prizes they won, all of which were donated by generous supporters such as the LA Opera, Kendall's Brasserie and Bar, USC Bookstores, Chivas USA, Cabot Creamery Cooperative, In-N-Out, Tommy's, and Pink's Famous Hot DogsClick here if you'd like to see Reading to Kids volunteer Chris Martin’s wonderful bingo photographs.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening, though there were many, was a surprise song and workout led by the one-and-only Richard Simmons!  To top it off, Mr. Simmons outbid himself on a pair of Disneyland Park-Hopper tickets—very exciting, indeed!  

If you missed out on Legendary Bingo or our May clubs, be sure to kick off summertime with our June 8th “Superheroes and Super People” Reading Clubs! We’ll travel to planet Jurassica, meet a young Malawian inventor, and so much more! Grab a cape, get your Batmobile out of storage, and meet us next month.

Also, please be sure to mark your calendars for our upcoming June 18th Benefit Comedy Night and Silent Auction! This side-splitting show at the Hollywood Improv will feature the hilarious Doug Benson and many other entertaining comedians. 

Thank you for your support, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Sincerely,

Katherine Norris
Literacy Coordinator

Thursday, March 14, 2013



Greetings, Volunteers!
Thank you for making our March 9th Reading Clubs truly special!  This month, 822 kids, 375 volunteers, 173 parents, and 19 teachers & staff joined us for a morning of “Music and Celebrations.” We also had musicians perform at each of our 7 school sites, and the kids and volunteers alike were thrilled by this wonderful treat! 

Our March book selection included tales of a mole with a penchant for rock ‘n’ roll, a budding young musician who can’t find an instrument that satisfies him, the Somali Civil War and rapper K’NAAN’s inspiring journey to the U.S., and many others. Your energy and enthusiasm helped bring these stories to life for the kids. As always, the crafts you created with the students also added to the morning excitement. As I looked around Esperanza Elementary—where I volunteered this month—kindergartners were proudly waving the tambourines they created with our inventive volunteers! 

Musician Quetzal Guerrero performing at Magnolia Elementary

 Of course, the reading clubs were made even more memorable by the appearance of musicians at all of our schools -- an annual tradition each March. From marching bands to folk groups, we had our musical bases covered.  At Esperanza Elementary the kids were so pleased by the performance that they even lined up for autographs! 

If you weren’t able to join us this month, don’t despair! Our April 13th Reading Clubs are just around the corner, and we’ve got some great book selections headed your way for our “Amazing Animals and Interesting Environments” theme. I look forward to seeing you there! 

Sincerely,

Katherine Norris

Literacy Coordinator

Friday, February 15, 2013



Greetings, Volunteers!

Thank you for making our February 9th Reading Clubs a success. This month, 826 kids, 351 volunteers, 163 parents, and 20 teachers & staff joined us for a morning of "Friendship and Family." We witnessed how unlikely duos sometimes make the greatest friends, experienced the courage of two best friends confronting racism in the Jim Crow era, discussed the ramifications of bullying, and so much more.




As many of you already know, our reading clubs aren’t just rewarding for the students, but for our volunteers as well. This month volunteer Ken Goldstein had such a wonderful time working with the students at Magnolia Elementary that he wrote a moving entry for his blog Corporate Intelligence Radio. You can read the entirety of his post  here, but I wanted to share the following excerpt with you:

These kids were amazing.  They have all the potential in the world.  They are ready to dream and learn and help each other and work hard.  As we drove home and I looked around at parts of Los Angeles where many of us don’t spend enough time, I wondered, where will these kids be in five years when they hit middle school?  In ten years when they are in high school?  Will they go to college?  Will they have the kinds of opportunities that will let their dreams come true?  I couldn’t know, but that’s what I wanted to happen.

Ken’s piece serves as a great reminder that our volunteers’ service goes beyond a single Saturday morning. When you read with a child you're making an important investment in his or her future success--that's why we believe that inspiring a love of reading now is so very important.  I thank Ken for sharing his thought-provoking piece with us!

Our March 9th Reading Clubs are just three weeks away, and musicians will be joining us at each school as part of our “Music and Celebrations” theme. We look forward to seeing you soon, and until then have a safe and happy President’s Day!

Sincerely,

Katherine Norris
Literacy Coordinator