What is Love of Reading?
A wide variety of books have been arranged by reading levels in different sections of the Ranchos de Taos Elementary School Library by the For the Love of Reading coordinators, Jenn Britton, an AmeriCorps Vista member, and Julie Bouchard, a community volunteer. Students from multiple classrooms will soon come into the library to select the books that they will read one-on-one with their volunteer reader.
A total of 39 Taos Milagro Rotary members and other community members are sharing their love of reading with students at Ranchos Elementary. The volunteer adults are matched with teacher identified students. The volunteers read one-on-one with the children for thirty minutes each. So, each volunteer reads to two or three children. Currently there are 70 students (six kindergartener, 32 first-graders, 18 second-graders and 14 third-graders) receiving special reading time with their volunteer reader. Two pre-school classes also have a visiting reader once a week for 30 minutes.
It's fun. The student readers come in looking for their adult reader who has been given information on the students' reading levels, needs and strengths. During their year of reading together, the two develop a friendship and the adults get to know the students' reading likes, strengths and improvement goals.
The adults also challenge their students to take on more difficult reading materials. The adults get to see the stories through the eyes of the students. In turn, through their animated discussions, the students get the benefit of the adults' background, knowledge and experience. Both the students' and adults' lives are enriched by this interaction. Similar programs have shown dramatic increases in students' reading comprehension.
Do students get books?
Another important part of the program is the book distribution timetable. All of the students in the school are enjoying the opportunity to pick books to keep as their own. Approximately every three weeks, the children who are being read with, along with the rest of their class, get to choose a book to take home.
Volunteers have made sure to include popular books from the reading program. Holiday books will also be distributed to all of the students at Ranchos Elementary. The books have been purchased by the Taos Milagro Rotary Club with funds they received from a grant received from the District 5520 Rotary Club (Rotary Clubs in New Mexico and Texas), a grant from the First Books Program and with the local club's matching funds. In addition, other books have been purchased with other smaller grants and donated books have been included. There are sure to be books that will interest everyone.
Why does reading matter?
Research has shown that children who live in literacy-rich homes have better reading skills. The For the Love of Reading Program gives books to all of the children in the school. Several of the children have commented that the books received are often the only books that they own. Some have commented that they are starting a library of their own. These libraries often feature books by a favorite author, theme or topic. As the program continues their home library choices expand.
When asked about the impact the program has made on her class, Amanda Aguilar, a second-grade teacher, wrote, "I think the program is wonderful. It is an opportunity for children to really develop a love of reading. A lot of times, we have our students read books or stories that are required. With the program, they get to read books they want to read. This makes them look forward to Reading Club day. It is also very sad but true that a lot of our students do not have books at home. Through the generosity of the program, they are able to start collecting their favorite books. My students are thoroughly enjoying the program and I truly appreciate the dedication and hard work of the volunteers."
Restaffing a library
Program volunteers realized that the school's library was not being used regularly. When they found out that, due to lack of funding, there was no librarian, they requested and received training to learn how to use the book circulation system at the library. Students now have a regular library time for checking out books added to their schedule.
The program will be expanding to Arroyos del Norte Elementary in January. There are already five confirmed volunteer readers but the program is seeking more volunteers. Volunteers are asked to complete an application and get a Taos Municipal Schools background check to participate in the program. Training is also offered to the volunteers.
There is ongoing need for additional volunteer readers at both Ranchos Elementary School and Arroyos del Norte Elementary School. New reading groups are being added and there is always an ongoing need for substitute readers. The time commitment for this program is a little over one hour per week and the joy it brings our volunteer readers is endless. Substitute readers are critical as our volunteer readers tend to be busy people who travel a fair amount and we always want to have readers for our students.
You can sign up to be a volunteer reader by contacting Jenn Britton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (575) 224-6692.
Little free libraries
The Taos Milagro Rotary also sponsors the Little Free Libraries located around town and other locations in Taos county. The libraries are kept filled by volunteer library stewards (Rotary members and community members) who have taken on the responsibility to make sure that they are well stocked. These books have also been purchased by the Taos Milagro Rotary Club and by contributions made to the club. Community members of all ages can take books to read, and add books that they want to share.
- Submitted by the Taos Milagro Rotary Club