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Tips: Being a Good Reading Volunteer

The following guidelines will help maximize the time you spend with the children. As a volunteer you want to make sure the children remain engaged in the session and in the materials. The following tips will help you do so.

  • Begin the session with limited and age-appropriate choices - children will benefit most from materials they do not consider too easy or too difficult.
    • The additional resources (below) include information on selecting age-appropriate materials.
  • Have a plan and communicate it. Give the child the opportunity to add to the plan.
    • "We have three books to read today. Which one do you want to start with?"
    • Write down a list and let the child check things off as they get done - this will give them a sense of accomplishment and serve as a visual representation of their progress.
  • Vary the sessions.
    • Don't hesitate to bring in outside materials or engage in literacy-enhancing projects.
  • Communicate with the children you work with about their interests and hobbies and respond to them.
    • You may bring in books about football or animals, depending on their responses.
  • Acknowledge when things aren't going well. Assume that when the child doesn't understand something, you have to find a better way to explain it.
    • "This is a hard book. It's ok. We'll work through it together."
  • If a child is having continued difficulty understanding, move on.
    • Focusing on one point makes the child anxious, and children learn best in an environment they perceive to be safe.
  • Acknowledge the child's feelings.
    • If a child comes to reading obviously upset or angry, ask him/her if he/she wants to talk.
  • Be mindful of and react to specific issues for the child. Be sure to articulate these issues and explain your responses. Remember that reading is a language-based skill. Any time spent talking with a child is helpful.
    • "I have noticed it takes you a while to settle down. Let's spend the first few minutes talking about your favorite TV show or sport."
  • When a child is pressing your buttons, be an actor and don't let on.
    • Once you are in a power struggle, you have lost - even if you might win.
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