Reading to Kids
September 30, 2010
I have been a Reading to Kids volunteer for over seven years. Reading to Kids is an organization dedicated to giving under-served children a love of reading. On the second Saturday of every month adult volunteers read to elementary school children and work on book-related crafts with them; the organization holds a brief orientation for new volunteers the same morning of the reading clubs.
Volunteers sign-up online and have to complete a quick one-time online application. All volunteers are assigned a partner (you can also request a partner if one of you has volunteered at least once) and you have some time for you(s) to plan your time with the students. Almost everything in this organization is based on volunteering and people making small sacrifices for the greater good. Adult volunteers not only read to the children, but after a few times they can be involved in almost every aspect of the organization: writing grants, organizing fundraising events, such as silent auctions, marketing the organization, maintaining the website, and recruiting volunteers. The volunteers that are unable to donate their time to help run Reading to Kids are able to read to the students only when the volunteers can spare the time, i.e. they are not beholden to be there every month. A natural outcome of this flexibility is the professional diversity among volunteers. Reading to Kids volunteers include teachers, chefs, doctors, (public and private sector) lawyers, business professionals, real estate investors, and college and graduate students; I am an engineer and entrepreneur.
Two other groups of people also volunteer to give the students a love of reading. School teachers and administrators commit their time to help run operations during the reading clubs and also help promote the program to students and their parents. The last group is the students and their families. No student is forced to be in the program, at least by no one outside their family. Though the students are given free prize books for attending, the number of students that attend month after month is a testament to the joy the students receive from the activities.
I am a volunteer reader and I also help with preparing prizes for students which are raffled-off a couple of times a year. I also had volunteer roles as a Site Coordinator (someone who helps run operations at the reading clubs, in lieu of reading certain months) and a member of Strategic Planning Committee. Given that I am an engineer in a large corporation Reading to Kids allows me, and other volunteers, the ability to see the direct fruits of their labor and the joy on the customers' [students'] faces. Also, I have been able to take on leadership roles and partake in the building and running of an organization. The only downside I have experienced during the reading clubs is that once in a blue moon I am assigned a partner where our thoughts on how best to interact with the students are very out of sync. In terms of being an active volunteer, it can feel like a job sometimes, depending on your role, and it's been frustrating to see the slow growth in the last several years, though part of the holdup is the economy. For potential volunteers I recommend volunteering at least twice to see before saying you will volunteer on a more regular basis. For potential donors/investors, I think it is a testament that many volunteers dedicate extra time to run the organization and also directly help give under-served children a love of reading.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
my role as a volunteer.
What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...
seeing the students unable to control their excitement to see how a book ends and/or wanting to emulate some of the book's activities, e.g. doing a certain dance.
The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...
personal and diverse (ethnically and career-wise).
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
hire more staff, rent a slightly larger facility, and expand smartly.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About every six months
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Volunteer & I have been a reader and was also a site coordinator. As a Site Coordinator I helped run the operations every second Saturday of the month. The volunteers in this position provides resources to optimize the reading volunteers' experience and builds relati.