One To One Children’s Literacy Program volunteer Jamie Irwin helps Harwood elementary school Grade 4 student Justin Russell

One To One Children’s Literacy Program volunteer Jamie Irwin helps Harwood elementary school Grade 4 student Justin Russell

Turning kids into readers ‘One to One’

The One to One Children's Literacy Program needs volunteers to help elementary school children improve their reading skills

One to One Children’s Literacy Program volunteers have been helping local students learn to love reading for 17 years. The program, which matches the trained volunteers with elementary school students for individual reading times, is now in all district schools, including a French program at Beairsto school. The Junction Literacy Centre program is also in the Vernon Christian School and the Okanagan Indian Band Cultural School.

Jamie Irwin is a parent and volunteer with the program at Harwood school.

“When I was asked to take part, I didn’t know much about the program, but I’m glad that I said yes. The program really benefits the kids because we need reading in every area of our lives,” she said. “The kids love it. They are happy to come and can’t wait to learn. You can see throughout the program how well they do and that’s rewarding for a volunteer.”

The program has the volunteers reading with students selected by classroom teachers and the schools’ learning resource teachers. These students need to boost their reading skills and confidence and are not receiving any other specialized reading help from school district staff.

The volunteer tutors take a one-morning training session and have the learning resource teachers and the school One To One program teachers available to answer any questions that come up. The volunteers spend one morning or afternoon a week at the school and see three children for half an hour each with reading material provided. The students read with a volunteer four days a week for the 12 weeks of each program.

“It benefits the students to have an adult who is happy to read out loud with them for that time period and it really boosts their self esteem, said Harwood school learning resource teacher Gail Wolanski. “There are so many children who could benefit from it but we can only select a certain number. The classroom teachers would like to see more children take part. They see the difference in the self-confidence in reading,”

Kathy Wylie is the One To One school coordinator for Harwood.

“Each student sees four different volunteers in each session and it is good for them to get to know adults with different personalities and know that adults in the community are interested in helping them,” she said.

Justin Russell, nine, a Grade 4 student at Harwood, is looking forward to taking part in the program again this year.

“I like learning the names of all the teachers (volunteers) and getting to know what they like so we can read together. I like to read comics and non-fiction books, like about alligators. I want to try new books this year on different subjects,” he said. “Everyone is nice. I like meeting them and I like to read at home, too.”

There are about 300 volunteers active in the program at any time and some have been with it since it started.

“We couldn’t do the program without the volunteers. A love of reading isn’t taught, it’s discovered by each child. Reading with an adult who wants to read for pleasure is an important part of learning to love reading,” said Amy Doylend, One To One District coordinator for the Junction Literacy Centre.

The Junction Literacy Centre and the One To One program support School District 22’s goal that every child capable of learning will learn to read by Grade 3.

The next volunteer training sessions are the first week in October. After training, the time commitment is to a 12-week session with substitutes available for illness or vacations. For more information and to pre-register for the training, contact Doylend at 250-549-2216 or or see