Monday, June 2, 2008

Volunteering at Lunch: It's reading time!

Every other Friday, I go to elementary school for a little learning.

Not because I failed to learn my multiplication tables or because my family died of dysentery on the Oregon Trail and I need to repeat 4th grade, but because my employer participates in the Everybody Wins! Power Lunch program.

It's not some corporate networking event where bigwigs pow-wow.
It's not about teaching elementary school.
It's not even about lunch.

It's about reading to the kids.

Specifically, the kid you have been paired up with for the year. Once a week, each of us volunteers comes to the school at lunchtime, collects our mentee from the cafeteria, and heads over to the library for a little one on one reading time.

Why reading? Well, according to the Everybody Wins! website, in two independent evaluations, Power Lunch emerged as one of very few programs documented to effectively impact low-income students in reading comprehension, motivation and achievement, as well as overall academic performance, classroom behavior, self-confidence and social skills.

Wow. I can do all that just by showing up once a week at lunchtime to read to Melissa? Not only that, but I get to field some pretty funny questions. We've talked about why 3rd graders don't need padded bras, why her sister came back from Russia, and how to pick how an interesting chapter book.

It's pretty simple, really. Since I've partnered up with one of my co-workers, I only read every other week, which allows for any intervening work issues. It all takes place during lunch - when I'd normally be drinking my Fresca and chatting with co-workers anyway. All I had to do before being qualified as a reader was to show up to a brief orientation and complete a CORI background check.

And, the whole thing was relatively easy for my employer to set up. Everybody Wins! simply asks for a small annual donation from the employers to help support the program. The staff then assigns the employer's interested volunteers to an elementary school nearby that participates in the Power Lunch program.

Really, Everybody does Win. Corporations are able to give back to the community around them. Employees are able to volunteer within their often busy work schedules and home life. And the kids, well, the kids are the real beneficiaries. More than 87% of Power Lunchers improved their reading comprehension, and were five times more likely to have improved classroom behavior.

So. Get your employer involved. Everybody Wins! is a national non-profit - bring it to your area. Make the difference in the life of a child. Make a difference in your own life.

Related Posts: Public libraries are your friend; Hats off to the Italian Home for Children; YouthBuild; Hearts and Crafts; Eyes Wide Shut

Photo courtesy of Crimfants.


hannah said...

my little ones absolutely ADORE their lunch buddies. they look forward to it every week, and they are bummed with it's over for the year.

it may not directly affect their reading abilites, but i know for certain it certainly helps build their confidence because they know someone is coming to spend a whole lunch period to read just with them. it makes them feel special, and sometimes, for some of these kids, that's the only time they get someone all to themselves.

and in my eyes, that makes the lunch buddies who volunteer also special ;)

hannah said...

i meant to say WHEN it's over, not with :P

dude, where's friday?! :/