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READS program searching for more volunteers

Published: Monday, Oct. 9, 2017 10:24 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 10:53 a.m. CDT
(CNA file photo)
Sandy Jennett and then-first-grader Summer Prentice read the book "Tracks" by David Galef in January 2014 at Creston Elementary as part of the READS program, pairs an adult volunteer with a first-grade student learning to read. Volunteers meet with their reading buddy once per week for 30 minutes and help encourage and motivate their student to continue their reading progress.

Volunteers are needed for the Read, Enjoy And Develop Success (READS) program for the 2017-18 school year at Creston Community Elementary School.

READS is a sponsored program by Creston Community and St. Malachy schools in collaboration with Dollars for Scholars educational support.

“Students can’t be successful educationally if they don’t develop good reading skills early on,” said Chris Mansour, program director. “READS pairs them with a reading buddy to improve their reading skills, but also to have an extra caring adult in their life who is a positive influence.”

Ninety-five volunteers are needed in total, but Mansour said at this point, she still needs 40-plus volunteers to ensure the READS program meets its goal of giving each first-grade student a one-to-one reading buddy.

Reading times are available 2:30 to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. Each volunteer picks one day of the week to go read with his or her reading buddy for 30 minutes.

All of the St. Malachy slots are filled already, leaving open slots at Creston Community Elementary School.

The program begins the first week of November, with the first day being Nov. 6. Volunteers are required to have a background check performed and must go through a training session to teach them reading strategies used by the school.

“We know that having an extra caring adult in your life may increase your school attendance, hopefully our reading performance and may decrease some negative behaviors,” Mansour said. “To be successful throughout the years academically, basic reading skills are important.”

The program isn’t just for struggling readers, however.

“it’s kind of a universal access program,” Mansour said. “All students benefit from having someone they can read to and who can read with them at times.”

Linda Huffman, a former teacher in the Creston Community School District for 32 years, has volunteered in the program in retirement.

“It’s just a good way to connect with (the students) and provide some positive reinforcement for them at the school,” Huffman said. “You just want to be their friend and help them with their reading.”

Huffman said she enjoys encouraging the students in their reading after spending several years as a Chapter 1 reading instructor in the school district during her teaching career.

“No matter who you are, no matter what your interests are, you’re just going to enjoy it,” she said. “I’m a retired teacher, of course, and that makes it extra fun for me because I always helped with teaching reading. For anyone, it’s fun to go in and connect with a little first grader and just try to be there for them.”

Reading materials are provided for each session by the student. Through donations from the Creston Kiwanis Club, each volunteer will be given a book to give to his or her reading buddy as a Christmas gift.

Several community businesses and organizations have provided volunteers for the program, including Bunn-O-Matic, Southwestern Community College’s ambassadors and Iowa Focus.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Mansour at jcmansour@mchsi.com or at 641-782-4382.


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