Just last year, Bradley Simpson struggled with reading but now the eight-year-old has his nose in Harry Potter novels.
Simpson’s Grade 2 Harwood Elementary teacher noticed the difficulty Simpson was having last year and recommended him for the One to One Children’s Literacy Program.
“He doubled his reading ability just in that 12 weeks,” said Jennifer Stewart, a school-based resource teacher at Harwood.
And his success wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the program volunteers, who sat down with Simpson 30 minutes a day, four times a week.
“I loved it. It was really fun with all the games and the books,” said Simpson, now an avid Grade 3 reader who says books are fun and interesting.
“Since I read books a lot I’m really fast.”
His mom even recently caught him reading Harry Potter.
“She said, ‘how are you reading that?’”
It’s all thanks to the strategies and skills Simpson learned in the program, which boosted his reading ability, confidence and enjoyment.
“The more reading we do, the more we develop a love for reading,” said Stewart.
But the program isn’t even possible without the volunteers who spend that time with the kids.
The program runs in every school in the district, including Cherryville, Lavington and at the Okanagan Indian Band. But it takes approximately 12 volunteers per school to run it.
“Every school right now needs a couple people,” said Bonnie Hutton, district co-ordinator of the program, which is run by the Junction Literacy Centre.
While teaching a young child to read may seem like a daunting task, the only requirement is a love of reading.
“You can never hurt a child by reading with them,” said Hutton.
Volunteers are trained and then they spend an hour and half (either one morning or afternoon) a week from mid-October to mid-May in the school.
“It’s a bit of a commitment but it makes a huge difference in the reading ability of kids,” said Stewart. “And it’s so important to help them develop those skills at an early age.”
Training sessions take place Sept. 29, 30 and Oct. 1, therefore anyone interested is urged to sign up by visiting junctionliteracycentre.ca or by calling 250-275-3117. Those interested who can’t make the training dates will be accommodated.
Anyone, from retired teachers to college students and even parents interested in making a difference can take part.
“A lot of them are parents whose kids are already grown and they just want to give back to the community,” said Hutton.
For students like Simpson, between grades one and five, the skill learned is one benefit, but the one-on-one time with caring adults is an added benefit.
“They’re excited, they make a connection, it’s fun,” said Hutton.
And the reward for the volunteers is also immense.
“What they get out of it is much more than what they put in.”