Day 36: Another year as a SMART volunteer comes to a close

13 May

Today was the “end of year” celebration for the SMART program at Helman Elementary. SMART stands for “Start Making A Reader Today.”The SMART reading program helps kids become confident readers by providing individual volunteer attention and new, take-home books every month. I have been a SMART volunteer for many years and love spending time reading with the children and watching them as they pick up clues and begin to learn to read. While it is not our job to teach kids to read, I think we support that process and I do my best to instill a love for reading.

As a volunteer for this program, I feel that my responsibility is to be a good role model and a caring adult. Occasionally, I am reminded that some of the children face challenges that I cannot begin to imagine. When I volunteered in Portland, I showed up and the little girl that I read to was absent. The next week as we walked to the SMART room, I asked her if she had been sick that week. Very casually she told me “No. My dad was hitting my Mom and we called the police and they took him away.” I was grateful that she was not looking at me at the time because I was stunned. It felt insignificant to be there to read with her when she faced much greater obstacles. I suppose that, at the least, it was a welcome respite for her.

Fortunately, that sort of thing has been rare in my time as a SMART volunteer… most of the time it’s just about reading good books with emerging readers. I have loved the time I have spent with this program and think that helping a child learn to love reading is a wonderful way to make a difference in their life.

Today I made an Apple Blueberry Pie for my SMART coordinator, Sam.  If you live in Jackson County and would like to learn more about SMART, please contact Julie Brimble @ 541-734-5628.

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