Volunteering at African Hope (by Ioanna)
Though I’ve only spent several sessions volunteering with the reading program, I’ve already felt enveloped in the warmth the community at African Hope exudes. Each Saturday, a group of regular volunteers gather to sit down and read with children at different levels, encouraging them to find a passion for reading and helping to refine their individual skills.
It was only recently that I truly realized the impact the reading program can have on the rest of the student’s educational experience. After one session, India, program leader, asked that we pull out specific files. There were certain students who showed signs of struggling in their classes and the volunteer’s notes confirmed that these students needed more individual attention with their reading if they were going to meet their academic level.
It’s exactly this idea that makes the reading program so important – the commitment to individual attention. With a program like this and the help of volunteers, students are able to pause for a moment and individually engage with someone to work on building their reading skills. This one-on-one moment also helps to create connections with students, even if brief, and explore how they think as they piece together words to form a story.
The most fun thus far has been seeing those students who walk into the library eager to start reading and connecting ideas to understand the stories. It is loads of fun to sit with a child and work through a story with them, slowing down to discuss what they think will happen and prompting them to try describing new words. I always enjoy asking students to relate books back to themselves, helping them to immerse themselves in the tales they’re taking on and find links to the world around them.
Each student is unique in the way they approach a book – some running through the pages, some slowly taking the time to pronounce each word, looking to me for confirmation. Others are quick to respond to questions, endlessly discussing what they see in the illustrations, while others need some more encouragement to try and understand new words.
Though each session with a student is not too long, it’s an ideal amount of time to make reading an enjoyable experience for the student, one they hopefully look forward to each week. It’s certainly an experience that I wait for eagerly each week and hope can continue to involve myself in more!