When did you start volunteering for Read Ahead?
This will be my fifth year.
What inspired you to volunteer with Read Ahead?
I had a couple of different volunteer opportunities where I live; I was the head of the Girl Scout organization in my town. When Read Ahead first came into the office at Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius, I was one of the first people to sign up. I was looking for another volunteer opportunity and it just seemed like a great fit. I love the mission and I love working with kids, so I signed up right away. I also liked the fact that I would be working with different kinds of children, as I’d only worked with girls in the past.
How would you describe your experiences in Read Ahead’s program?
The first student I read with was a fifth-grade boy, so we met each week for a year and then he graduated to middle school. The second student I had started in 3rd grade, so I had the chance to read with him for three years. His name was Gabriel and the relationship we built over the years was incredible. The continuity of having this long-term stability was important and led to a deeper connection. By the end of our time together, he wrote me a wonderful note and wished we had even more time together.
Gabriel was a strong reader, but we still saw a lot of growth. I saw it as a mentoring opportunity. He was open minded for a young kid. The one thing he really didn’t enjoy was reading out loud, along with other little things. He would ask me about myself and we would talk a lot about our interests. He would talk to me like I was one of his friends, asking me if I’d played the latest video games. That became a vehicle to gain his trust and eventually it led to more reading and sharing. We learned to take turns reading, switching it up to where we would choose characters and take turns reading each character’s lines. As we got closer and he got more confident, he started getting really excited about reading in front of the group. He was almost jumping out of his chair to volunteer by the end.
Did you have someone in your life who inspired you to read?
I grew up in the South Bronx, in a fairly impoverished area. I had a big family and when my youngest brother turned three, my mother went back to school to get her degree. She became a Reading Specialist for the New York City Department of Education, so reading was part of life in my house. All eight of my brothers and sister were able to read by three or four years old, before we went off to school. My mother was such an avid reader, she would read three or four books a week—it was always critically important in our house.