Guest Column: Got some extra time? Use it to read to a child - and change a life

2013-08-18T00:00:00Z Guest Column: Got some extra time? Use it to read to a child - and change a lifeBetty Stauffer Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Have you ever positively changed the trajectory of a person's life? Literacy Connects' volunteers serving as Reading Seed coaches have.

Michael, a second-grader, was far behind his class in his ability to read. He never participated in class and disengaged from activities as much as he possibly could. Then he was matched with a volunteer Reading Seed coach.

He met with Barbara every week for 30 minutes. She got to know Michael and brought him books about his primary interest - cars. Barbara read the books to him and then they read them together. After several months Michael was reading them mostly unassisted and was enjoying reading for the first time in his life. Even more importantly, he began to believe that he was a smart, capable learner. Meanwhile, in his classroom, his teacher reported that he now raises his hand and participates in every class discussion and project.

I submit to you that Michael now has an opportunity to succeed that he would not have had without his volunteer coach who cared enough to meet with him once a week all school year. Barbara changed his life trajectory.

The Arizona Daily Star's recent Losing Ground series clearly showed how poverty is caused by many complex and interrelated factors. Likewise, Literacy Connects understands that there is no one solution to improving literacy skills and thus education levels and jobs skills for Tucsonans. Teaching parents the importance of reading and speaking to their children, getting books into homes, exposing children to the arts through creative writing, and offering adult education programs are all critical components of Literacy Connects, in addition to K through third-grade reading coaches through Reading Seed.

It is also true that Literacy Connects' Reading Seed volunteers can't solve all of the problems in a child's life. But they can provide a regular and stable mentoring relationship as well as help with reading skills - both of which are tremendously significant. This critical one-on-one attention is something that our hard-working and thinly stretched public schools cannot provide. They need our help.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild's pledge to recruit 500 new volunteer coaches would double the number of children Reading Seed can assist this year. With the help of the Arizona Daily Star, I trust that the mayor will meet this goal, but it is up to our community. If you can give an hour a week during the school day -please call 798-0700 or visit www.literacyconnects.org/readingseed.

If you are not able to volunteer you can still help to improve a child's successes. A donation of $200 at www.literacyconnects.org will support the costs of a coach for a child for a full year. These dollars cover training, placing and coordinating volunteers as well as coordination with schools, data collection and recording and in-direct costs like office supplies and utilities. Literacy Connects qualifies for the Arizona state credit for the working poor ($200 if filing singly and $400 jointly). You can support a child's coaching sessions for a year at no cost to you. Even better - thanks to The Stocker Foundation, all gifts will be matched up to $25,000. So your $200 will become $400 and support two children instead of one. Please give whatever amount is right for you.

Our future will be determined by our children and it does "take a village." Literacy Connects' Reading Seed program offers an opportunity to give children an improved life trajectory. As Rothschild said in the Star, This is ultimately a community deciding that this is something it wants to do."

Please respond in whatever way you can - for our kids' sakes.

Betty Stauffer is executive director of Literacy Connects. Email her atbstauffer@LiteracyConnects.org.

To volunteer or donate

Call 798-0700 or visit www.literacyconnects.org/readingseed to find ways you can help.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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