Tag Archives: SMART

“SMART” begins again… and to celebrate: Apple Pie!

21 Oct

Last week began another year of SMART reading for those of us who volunteer with this organization.  As I’ve mentioned many times, I am a huge fan of the SMART program because its’ goal is to help young people become “confident and successful readers.”  Each week from mid-October to mid-May, volunteers spend one hour reading to two children… and once a month each child receives a book to keep.  It’s easy, it’s rewarding, and it’s so very important to their educational success.

The SMART website states that:  Learning to read is one of the most important steps in a child’s life, laying the vital foundation for future knowledge and education. Prevailing research proves that shared book reading and the availability of books in the home during a child’s first, formative years are the strongest predictors of early literacy skills. SMART provides both.

I’ve been a SMART reader for a long time – and I hope to continue to be one for many years to come.  Reading to my own children when they were younger was a favorite activity for me.  I still have most of their books and I plan to read them with my grandchildren one day… and until then I will be happy sharing those same books with children who have not yet heard the stories.

And now for the funny (as in a little bit strange) part of my week… Last Monday I met a young woman named Ally who seemed very familiar.  It took a little while for me to realize that I was her SMART reader more than a dozen years ago!   Ally then told me that she still has all of the books that she received through the program – which I think is a very good indication that she enjoyed her time in the program.

The next day I made an Apple Crumb Crust Pie for Ally’s mom, Cathy.   While I’ve not seen Cathy in a long time, at one time we were volunteers together… and I’d just been reminded that those moments spent volunteering are pretty special indeed.

It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.
S.I. Hayakawa

SMART readers are always needed – If you have an hour a week to give to SMART, and live in Jackson County, please call this number: 541-734-5628, or go to their website, www.getsmartoregon.org.  Thank you!


Day 331: Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss!

2 Mar

As many of you know, I have been a SMART reader for many years.  SMART stands for Start Making A Reader Today and is a literacy program begun in the early 1990’s in Portland, Oregon.  My husband, Emile, was a SMART volunteer for a year or so and then his company kept sending him out of town, so I began to fill in for him.  I felt that the kids that he was assigned to considered him a responsible adult, and if he was out of town and “did not show up” then how responsible could he be?  It was important to me that we show the kids that we were committed to them.

When we moved back to Ashland in 1995, we found that SMART had not yet come to the valley.  It was a few years before I could resume my volunteering with this program. What I love most about the program is helping kids enjoy reading. That is all that I am there for.  What is funny is that I don’t remember much about my early days of reading.  I do recall the books in first grade that went something like this: See Dick.  See Jane.  See Dick and Jane and their dog Spot.  At the time it was pretty heady stuff… but I am glad that books have changed a lot since then.

One of my favorite children’s authors is Dr. Seuss. I read all of his books to my kids over and over again and I thought that I was pretty good at reading them.  One day I was in the SMART room at Helman Elementary reading one of his more popular books, Green Eggs and Ham.  For those of you who were raised on Mars, this book tells the tale of a man who did not like Green Eggs and Ham.  On that day, I read the line “I do not like them, Sam-I-am”  to a little girl and the page showed the main character under water saying those words.

I read the words as I always have read them.  “I do not like them, Sam-I-am.” Then the little girl said to me, that is not how it goes.  I looked at her and thought, “excuse me?”  When I could speak I said, “Well how should I have said it?”  And then this little girl recited the words as if she was saying them under water!  Wow… I asked her how she knew how to do this and she said, “My Dad is an actor, and he told me that if you were underwater that is how you would sound.” And to think I had read that book a hundred times and never said it that way.  Amazing!  I’d learned a new way to read a Dr. Seuss book from a 6 year old girl!

Tonight I brought a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie to that actor and his family.  How wonderful to have learned something new about reading at this late date!  It is a lesson I have not forgotten.  I continue to be a SMART reader today because I love helping kids learn to read and I feel it is one of the best things I have ever done.  And who knows what I may learn next?

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  Dr. Seuss

Day 38: Jan

15 May

Today I googled a recipe for Apple Pie because I wanted to make a pie with apples but I wanted to try something new.  I found this recipe by Grandma Ople and thought about it.  I liked the idea but wanted to know that all the apples were coated with the syrup and so instead of following the recipe I did this: I made the syrup and then I tossed the apples with it – but I also added about a cup of sliced almonds to the mixture.  Then I put all of that into a pie shell and baked it.  When it came out of the oven it looked like this:

It didn’t take long to figure out who this pie belonged to – her name is Jan.  I met her when we were both volunteers with the SMART reading program.  She is smart and funny and we clicked right away.  Soon after we met she asked if I would consider becoming a member of PEO, which is a philanthropic organization that raises money for women’s college scholarships. I was tickled that Jan asked me to join – and loved spending time with her  – and I have been with PEO five years now.

I called Jan this morning as her pie was baking and asked if I could stop by.  When I got to her house she told me that her birthday is in a few weeks but she is leaving in just a few days to visit her children in Seattle.  If I’d have waited, I would have missed her. I was able to gift her with a pie just in time.  How cool is that?

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.