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ReadingPals volunteers needed for two Cape Coral schools

By Staff | Aug 23, 2018

Volunteers are being sought for two Cape Coral schools who would like to become a ReadingPal for the pre-k and kindergarten students.

United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Community Relations/ReadingPals Manager Nancy Coker said they received a grant through the Children’s Movement, a nonprofit organization that does work throughout the state of Florida, four years ago to offer this program to students in the area.

“The grant itself is funded by Carol and Barney Barnett. They started it. This will be their seventh year. The Barnetts have always been huge education advocates for the state of Florida. They help sponsor some good stuff happening for education,” she said.

The grant allows them to recruit volunteers for an hour a week to read to 4-year old children, as well as first grade students.

“If you are working with a 4-year old, you are not teaching them how to read, you are introducing the concept that a story comes from turning pages. It is early literacy,” Coker said.

One thing that she believes is important while working with young people is giving them words, vocabulary.

“Expanding what they hear is so important,” Coker said.

The schools United Way targets are those that have mostly families with low incomes. The teachers choose which children would benefit the most from the program.

“Most of our program happens during the day, during normal curriculum,” Coker said. “It is important that we work with the teachers and what scheduling works best for them.”

They begin the ReadingPals program a month after school starts to give teachers an opportunity to get to know their students, while the youngsters settle into their environment. With that said, Coker is seeking volunteers who would like to instill the love of reading and literacy into the young children.

Two schools that United Way works with in Cape Coral are Hector Cafferata Elementary and Christa McAuliffe Charter Elementary. They began working with both of those schools three years ago.

“This is a commitment. They need to stick it out to the second week of May,” Coker said of the volunteers.

With that said, she said she works with many retirees who go on wonderful trips during the school year.

“Sometimes I have subs that can fill in for them,” she said.

The ReadingPals program works with kindergarten students at Hector Cafferata Elementary from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday in three different classrooms.

At Christa McAuliffe Charter Elementary School, volunteers work with kids during an after school program. Coker said the after school program was created for students who were not ready to go on to first grade, but whose teachers did not want to hold them back.

“We go in there just one day a week on Thursdays for an after school program from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. We start on Sept. 27. These are kids that need an extra boost. It’s a tremendous help for them,” Coker said.

Those who are interested in volunteering an hour of their time once a week reading with the children are asked to contact Coker at nancyc@unitedwaylee.org, or call (239) 433-7544.

Volunteers go through a two-hour orientation before they start working with the youngsters at Hector Cafferata Elementary.

At Christa McAuliffe Charter Elementary, orientation takes place the first day of the after school program. Those interested in volunteering at this school need to fill out an application and sign up before Sept. 27.

“I would love to get high school students that are out of school, especially with the after school program,” Coker said. “Typically it is retirees. I do have professionals, some from a law firm and several from banks.”

The two-hour training takes place, so the volunteers expectations are in the right place.

The volunteers receive copies of activities and books to read to the children. Coker encourages the volunteers to read the book before they visit with the children, so they know how to use their voice and make the story interesting.

The children who participate in the program receive books, so they can build their own home library. By the end of the year, the students receive eight books of their own.

During winter break and summer break a kit is sent home with the students complete with nice picture books, as well as activities parents can do with their children around the theme of that book.

The biggest win of the program stems around the relationship built between the volunteer and the student, Coker said.

According to United Way, children who read by grade level by the time they reach the third grade, are four times more likely to graduate from high school.

To sign up for ReadingPals, visit www.UnitedWayLee.org/Volunteer/ReadingPals.

Other schools in need of volunteers include: Bonita Springs Elementary; Colonial Elementary; The Early Childhood Center; J. Colin English Elementary; Gladiolus Child Development; New Horizons Afterschool in Estero; Orangewood Elementary; Orange River Elementary; Pinewoods Elementary; Sunshine Elementary; Villas Elementary, and HealthPark Child Development Center.