Volunteer Spotlight: Reading Mentors Sought in WRJ

  • Henry Scheier, an Everybody Wins! Vermont mentor who eats lunch away from his workplace, reads with third-grader Taylor Bennett last December at the White River School. Taylor is drawing as the pair takes a break from their book. (Courtesy of Everybody Wins! Vermont)

  • Everybody Wins! Vermont volunteer Candace Potter reads to her mentee, fourth-grader Aaliyah Rogers, at White River School. (Courtesy of Everybody Wins! Vermont)

Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

White River Junction — Everybody Wins! Vermont, the state’s largest reading mentorship program, is looking for volunteers to spend an hour each week reading with elementary students at the White River School in White River Junction. 

“The kids really look forward to seeing the adults and the adults often see progress with the children even in a short period with their ability to add words, grasp the stories and growth their vocabulary,” said Gwen Tuson, the site coordinator for Everybody Wins! Vermont at the White River School. 

The program runs throughout the year and is open to all children in first through fifth grade at the school. Participation in the program is voluntary, since students must be willing to give up one lunch and recess session each week to read with their volunteer. Volunteers are asked to commit an hour weekly. 

First-graders begin the program in February, so volunteers are mostly needed to work with these younger readers right now. However, Tuson said that people who are interested in working with older students should also get in touch. 

In White River Junction about 100 students and volunteers participate in the program, and throughout Vermont there are 1,400 student-mentor matches reading this school year. Many volunteers follow their student through the program for years, seeing them mature and learn along the way. However, Tuson said the mentor position is fulfilling even if someone can only do it for a short period of time. 

“It is rewarding when you see the progress right in front of you,” she said. “Some social problems where people volunteer it’s more difficult to see the progress.”

Tuson said that forming a positive, encouraging relationship with another adult is a very beneficial part of the program for students. 

“Almost any child can benefit from a one-on-one relationship that is there for socialization and for getting positive feedback from an adult,” she said. 

The reading mentorship program is open to students reading below, at and above grade level. Tuson works with volunteers to match their interest with the appropriate child, whether they’re looking to support someone having difficulty reading, or encourage the abilities of a more advanced reader. 

At the White River School, first grade lunch runs from 11:10 - 11:50 a.m., so that is when volunteers are needed. There are reading sessions on Wednesdays, but a second day later in the week may be added. Tuson asked people interested in volunteering to reach out even if that schedule doesn’t work, to see if other arrangements can be made. 

In addition to the White River School, Everybody Wins! Vermont is looking for volunteer mentors in Tunbridge, Chelsea, West Fairlee and Claremont, the only New Hampshire town where the program is active. To get more information on volunteering at those sites, visit www.everybodywinsvermont.org or call 802-229-2665.