Read to a Child


Read to a ChildMeet Our Friends: Read to a Child

We’ve got the scoop from Maricor Garaniel, a Program Manager at Read to a Child. 

How about sharing a story with us about your earliest experience learning to read or a favorite childhood book?

My mother told me she read Peter Rabbit to me when I was a baby. When she first told me that story many years ago, I thought it was so funny because what would I have really understood at that age? Now, knowing what I know about the importance of being exposed to words during that critical child developmental stage, my mother definitely knew what she was doing. My affinity for books has stuck with me through adulthood.

It’s always interesting to hear what inspired an organization’s mission. Tell us where it all began, and how long you’ve been on that mission:

In 1991, Arthur Tannenbaum founded this non-profit alongside his wife, Phyllis. Arthur had read Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook after reading a review of it in The New York Times. Trelease highlighted reading aloud to children was the single most important factor in improving children’s literacy skills. Arthur realized there were many children who were not regularly being read to, so he recruited four co-workers to read aloud to a child once a week during lunch at a local school. The positive effects the program was having on children’s self-confidence, attitude towards reading, and reading ability were seen almost immediately.

Give us 3 Fast Facts about your organization:

  1. The late Senator Ted Kennedy read with us in Washington D.C.
  2. Twice a year our students receive books from us to take home for their own personal library
  3. Last year, 89% of our students made measurable gains in one or more of the following areas: vocabulary, listening comprehension, ability to articulate thoughts, self-confidence, enthusiasm for books and reading, and overall reading ability

‘Lunchtime and Story Time’ looks like a unique volunteer opportunity! How many storytellers are participating in that program nationwide?

Having our program run during lunch allows professionals to participate in an ongoing, meaningful volunteer opportunity. To further accommodate schedules, we allow our volunteers to partner up and alternate reading to a student. I, myself, can attest to how convenient the experience really is. I often have to be out of the office around lunch time, so I knew it would be difficult for me to be a good, consistent reader, so having my boss and I share a student made it possible for me to volunteer. Not only do I feel like what I’m doing is important, but it’s also a nice break from the office.

Not only does this time fit with professionals busy schedules, but it is also a good time for children to be read to. Students are excited to see their mentor at a time when they are most attentive and relaxed. Last year, nationwide we had 1,427 volunteers participating in our Lunchtime Reading Program.

What’s in store for Read to a Child in 2014?

This year, we’re focused on growing our program at our current schools. I want to be doing more outreach to businesses, so they can get involved in the discussion around literacy and education in Los Angeles. We also have our annual fundraiser coming up in July. We hope to make it even bigger and better this year.

What should volunteers expect in working for Read to a Child – does it take any special training? And what is the general time commitment?

When a company starts reading with us, we do an hour long training session at their offices. We talk about general policies and how to make the most of their time with their students (around 40 minutes) each week. We stress how important book selection is. Students need to like the book they are being read, otherwise the experience they will associate with reading is a negative one that will not encourage the development of their literacy and enjoyment of reading. Thus, volunteers should provide choices of appropriate books to read (which are at their student’s listening level, which is above their reading level) and then have their student ultimately choose from that selection which book to read. This selection of books is based on a “getting to know you” activity the pairs complete together on their first day. These books will continue to evolve as they get deeper into the school year, when the volunteer gets to know their student even better. This strategy exposes them to more challenging material. Volunteers are also prompted to engage their students in the material by stopping every so often to ask questions. This helps check for understanding and helps students articulate how they feel about what is happening in the story.

For those that are instantly inspired to support Read to a Child after reading this, tell us how they can donate or get involved:

If you would like to make a donation to Read to a Child, you can visit this link: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/1440441. If you’re in Los Angeles and would like to get your organization involved in reading, you can simply e-mail me at maricor.garaniel@readtoachild.org. If not, you can e-mail info@readtoachild.org or call (781)489-5910 for more information.

And currently, we are in the running to receive a $5,000 grant from the Lakers Youth Foundation. To win, we have to have the most votes by Friday, January 31st at 2pm PST. Please vote for us here http://www.nba.com/lakers/community/yougrant. Thank you so much!

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