Archive for Volunteer – Page 3

[ST. AUGUSTINE RECORD] Can You Help Open A Child’s Mind?

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We here at The Record have an admittedly vested interest in folks who read. So, with that disclaimer aside, we’d like to take a moment to talk about reading — particularly as it applies to little ones.

An employee shared a story a week or so ago about a family member in her mid-60s who suffered a bad fall. She was knocked unconscious. She subsequently began to suffer memory loss, headaches and shaking. Turns out she had suffered a Grade 3 concussion — the most critical level. She was ordered to stay home for six weeks, minimum, and was not to use a computer, watch television or to read anything.

Her 6-year-old granddaughter is a bright child, but was reading two grade levels below where she should be.

The grandmother had the child come over after school and read to her. First, just the mail; as the weeks went on, books. After the six weeks, Abby was retested at school and had nearly reached her expected level of competency. Six weeks of reading trumped years of parental laziness. Bonus — Abby likes to read now. She’s proud. She shows it off.

Being in the business we’re in we’ve seen hundreds of stories about locals who have overcome severe challenges — crippling accidents, horrible injuries, etc. — where they’ve come out on top.

But it’s difficult to imagine how anyone these days can fully function in society or completely overcome the inability to read.

What we sometimes forget is reading always begins, for children, by listening. They can’t pick up a book and read it themselves, but reading to a young child develops what the scientific folks call “word-sound awareness.” It’s the most potent predictor of reading success down the road. Reading aloud to children is proven to jump-start language development even before they begin talking.

Reading to a child is also among the better activities available to stimulate cognitive skills, curiosity and motivation.

Reading aloud to a child is an important job. It can also be a nice thing to do.

The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program need local volunteers for their Reading Pals programs. ELC Reading Pals are matched with preschool centers. The RSVP program targets more at-risk groups in Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten and Head Start classrooms.

Read more at: St. Augustine Record

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

[PRESS RELEASE] Volunteer “Reading Pals” Program Brings Lasting Benefits to Local Children

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Volunteer “Reading Pals” Program Brings Lasting Benefits to Local Children

The advantages to reading to children from ages birth through five years is substantial. This is why the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) continues to expand its Reading Pals program in all six counties it serves (Baker, Bradford, Clay, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns). Reading Pals are trained by ELC and then connected with local preschool child care centers and VPK classrooms to simply read on a weekly basis to small groups of children.

Of the advantages of reading to this formative age group, one major benefit of reading to children is building vocabulary. Studies show that the best opportunity to influence our children’s lifetime of learning is before kindergarten when their most rapid period of brain growth occurs. Instilling an early love for reading is crucial to children’s future success in school.

Children also learn how to better communicate with others through reading.  The interaction between characters in the book teaches valuable lessons of which the children can relate. Discussions afterward between children and their Reading Pal also builds their communication skills and memory retention.

Finally, it provides preschoolers with a longer attention span. It fosters an environment where the children are sitting still and listening for a period of time and then asking related questions. As a result, children are better prepared for their elementary school years, which will carry on into adulthood.

For the safety of the children, all Reading Pal applicants will sign an affidavit of good moral character and will also go through a background screening. Once the volunteers have successfully completed the requirements, ELC assists the volunteers through a classroom training to ensure future success with the children.

Not only do children benefit through the Reading Pals program, but so do the volunteers in many ways.

Through the training, Reading Pals learn the following skills: how to choose age-appropriate books; child development, including the attention span of preschoolers; presenting books to preschoolers and promoting early literacy through phonetically reading.

Volunteers become role models who directly impact the children through the program. Children are constantly monitoring the actions of adults, so volunteers will be able to see this first-hand when children begin to read from left-to-right and turn pages of books just like their Reading Pal.

Reading Pals who volunteer their time may ultimately feel they have more time of their own as well. Wharton professor Cassie Mogilner recently reported to the Harvard Business Review that her research showed those who volunteer their time feel they actually have more of it; similar to those who donate their wealth feel to have more wealth of their own.

Finally, as Reading Pals, volunteers have the opportunity to make their time near and dear to their own hearts and have fun.

For example, Clay county Reading Pal Ellen Prest has been learning how to play the cello. Prest is a seasoned Reading Pal and knew this elegant instrument would win over the hearts of the children so she brought it in to perform for them. Prest also gave every child a turn to play the instrument.

“It’s so much fun to walk into the classroom and hear the children cheer, ‘It’s the book lady!’ on a weekly basis,” Ellen Prest said.

If desired, ELC also encourages volunteers to dress up as characters from the specific book they are reading as well as use props and other creative ways to enhance the story.

For example, volunteers quite often share personal photos with the children of their pets or of a recent vacation.  These teachable moments enlarge the scope of a child’s world, bringing in new and interesting experiences they may not have had yet in their young lives.

“We encourage Reading Pals to add their own personal experiences,” ELC’s Early Literacy Coordinator Joan Whitson said.  “Just last week, Crescent City volunteers, Gerry and Kathy Miller read a book about worms and brought in fake worms, and real worms for the daring, so the children could get a visual aid.”

Teachers are supportive of Reading Pals in their classrooms because it increases the children’s love for books.

“I so appreciate your weekly reading pal volunteer,” said Director of Elkton Academy Erin Kochanski.  “She lights up the room when she arrives and the kids so look forward to her coming each week. Every day they ask, is this the day Miss Julia will be coming?  I have really seen the kids love for books increase since Miss Julia has been coming.”

Applications for Reading Pals can be found under the “Volunteer” tab of ELC’s website: www.elcnorthflorida.org. Contact Joan Whitson for more information at jwhitson@elcnorthflorida.org or 904-342-2267. ELC coordinates services in North Florida for children birth to five years of age. Visit www.elcnorthflorida.org to learn more.

 

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

[PRESS RELEASE] ELC Seeks Volunteer Readers for Reading Pals Program

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Volunteer reading pal Mary Ellen Large reads the book "Mixed up Chameleon" to her preschool class at Sea Side School in St. Augustine.

Volunteer reading pal Mary Ellen Large reads the book “Mixed up Chameleon” to her preschool class at Sea Side School in St. Augustine.

 

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., August 13, 2015- The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) are seeking new volunteer reading pals to continue growth for their Reading Pals program.

Volunteer Reading Pals are matched up with local preschool centers where they read once a week to children.

Reading Pals volunteers will learn the following skills: how to choose age-appropriate books; child development, including the attention span of preschoolers; presenting books to preschoolers and promoting early literacy through phonetically reading.

Training for the Reading Pals program will be held on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the St. Augustine Record Building located 1 News Place, St. Augustine, FL 32086.

“It makes my day when I walk into the classroom and the children cheer ‘It’s the book lady,’” volunteer Reading Pal, Ellen Prest said.

Studies show that the best opportunity to influence our children’s lifetime learning is before kindergarten when their most rapid period of brain growth occurs. Instilling an early love for reading is crucial to children’s future success in school.

To register or for more information about this training, contact Joan Whitson, Early Literacy Coordinator at 904-342-2267 or email jwhitson@elcnorthflorida.org or Cheryl Freeman at Cheryl.Freeman@stjohns.k12.fl.us.

 

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Sponsorship by the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida and the state of Florida, Office of Early Learning.

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

NEWS RELEASE: Clifford the Big Red Dog Brings Christmas to 600 Local Children

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Clifford the Big Red Dog and volunteer Murrell Weissinger delivered books to 20 children at Little Tots Child Care Center in St. Augustine, Dec. 6, 2011.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – PUTNAM AND ST. JOHNS COUNTIES, Fla., Dec. 8, 2011 – More than 600 local 3-year-olds received an early Christmas gift from Clifford the Big Red Dog and his friends at the Early Learning Coalition of Putnam and St. Johns Counties.

The ELC has just wrapped up its first ever book bag project specifically for 3-year-olds. Twenty six childcare centers, across Putnam and St. Johns County, were visited by Clifford the Big Red Dog and volunteers from the ELC. These centers were given book bags filled with a dozen books along with informative handouts for parents on the importance of reading.

“These three-year-olds and their families will have a dozen books to begin reading during a time when families are together,” said ELC Coordinator Joan Whitson. “We hope the family will help these young children make reading an important part of their lives.”

This project was a community effort with monetary and book donations from: St. Augustine Kiwanis Club, Sunrise Rotary in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra Rotary, Sunrise Rotary in Palatka and Hastings Rotary Club. Additionally, a fundraising event, featuring Comedian Danny Johnson, was held at Jackie Knights Comedy Club in St. Augustine that raised $2,200 toward the project.

“Reading to children at an early age is crucial to their having the skills to be ready for school,” said ELC Fundraising Committee Chair Maxine McChesney. “This is going to be a yearly program for the ELC.”

Ongoing donations to the ELC are greatly appreciated. It costs $25 for one bag of books.  Visit elcpsj.org to donate or to find out more about the services of the Early Learning Coalition.  Become a fan of the ELC on facebook at facbook.com/elcpsj.

 

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Contact: Joan Whitson, Early Literacy Coordinator, jwhitson@elcpsj.org, 904-819-3544