Helping young people to read
Around 15 years ago, I retired. My job involved a lot of time away from home, but that meant I missed time with our new grandson. I would walk up the hill pushing him in his stroller, always to go past the VW Beatle, which he loved, his little finger pointing at it. He started at St Peter and Paul primary school, followed by his younger brother a couple of years later.
I had lost my playmates, so I offered to help children with reading difficulties. These little ones would give their very best; they always surprised me. They were so determined to do well. The children were supported by a group of volunteers who won the ACT prize for best group in the science and education category.
I followed the boys to Marist to do the same there.
I found Marist a little different as the volunteers supported an older group of boys ranging from years four to eight. The boys surprised me with the type of books they choose. They usually are given a choice of three or four books to read in 10 minutes. Surprisingly, they will choose a subject such as horticulture, animals or travel in Australia.
Some boys are good readers, but it isn’t very meaningful unless you understand what you are reading. So I always give them an introduction. If the story is about Alice Springs, I can say I was there, but so long ago, my hair was not grey then. One boy responded: ‘Your hair is not grey, it’s white’! These are the moments I love.
After reading, I usually ask a few questions to see if they picked up the story, okay. ‘What do you think the story is about? Look at the front picture.’ We only have a short time, but we manage to discuss what might happen next in the book. Every boy is different. What characters they are!
Often I ask myself, ‘Why do I get so much pleasure from volunteering?’ It is not ‘work’ for me. It is all pleasure.
I have tried my hand at volunteering for older people (of which I am one!) and the needy in our society. But nothing has given me the same amount of enjoyment as being a reading volunteer at a school.
What about yourself? Could you give it a go? If you find yourself doing work that becomes hard labour, change to something else. I want to try other forms of volunteering, but God gave us only 24 hours in a day!
I also spend most of the week doing another form of volunteering, which I also love. And – please pray for me – I am teaching the oldest grandson to drive, a volunteer job I would gladly drop.