by ADAM GRUENEWALD
A new volunteer group at Central Elementary School hopes to make strides in reading levels of students.
Raider Readers, which started on in late September, aims to get volunteers in classrooms working with students of varying reading levels.
Early Childhood Special Education Coordinator and Speech Therapist Lindsay Johnson said the program is focusing on first- and second-graders right now, but she hopes it will continue to grow.
“We started out in our classrooms that had the highest need or needed a little bit of support,” said Johnson. “I would love to see it expand to the point where we can provide volunteers across grade levels.”
For now there are six volunteers who have signed up and completed the orientation process. They will then be paired with a classroom to work with.
The idea started through Elementary Principal Michael Daugs as Johnson, who has been at Central for five years, needed to complete some hours for her principal licensure.
Above all though, they both saw the need to increase community involvement in the school.
“We thought it would be a great opportunity to get some people in to work with our students,” said Johnson. “(The program) gets the community involved within the school so they can see what were doing here and the great things we’re teaching our students and so they can have the connection to the school and the progress we’re making and the goals we’re working towards.”
Additionally, Johnson said the act of reading aloud expands vocabulary and comprehension for students and reading confidence.
“We wanted the opportunity to allow students more time to read to someone,” she said.
The books volunteers read with students are the “good fit books” that are at the students reading level.
In the event students get stuck, the orientation provided volunteers with strategies and questions to ask to expand comprehension.
Thus far, reaction has been positive as teachers are eager for the extra support and volunteers, like Kathy Allen of Chaska, are excited about the opportunity.
Allen, 65, heard about the program from her granddaughter Abagail Venzke, a second-grader in Kathy Dvorak’s class, and will be helping out in Nicole Middlestadt’s first-grade class.
A foster mom who has three children and six grandchildren, Allen said she loves reading to kids.
“I’m trying to instill in them the importance of reading and the enjoyment of it,” she said.
Allen, who recently retired from administrative assistant of the quality of safety department at St. Francis Regional Medical Center, was eager for the opportunity to help out because she knows it is essential to know how to read.
“One of the benefits is it helps them through out their whole life,” she said. “Reading is just a way of escaping and getting into another world. To read aloud is exceptionally good.”
The Reader Raiders program has just started to reach out to volunteers through open house night, teachers and to the NYA Lions Club by Nancy Swiggum.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Johnson, “Just the reaction we’ve gotten from individuals in the community and their desire to help in the building.”
Johnson said volunteers are still needed and they have to be able to commit to a consistent schedule of about an hour a week. For questions, contact Johnson at 952-467-7359 or [email protected]
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]