Mentor Spotlight: Jim Stachnik

Jim and Nate

Jim and Nate

How long have you been volunteering with Read Ahead?

This is my first year with Read Ahead, and I have to say, it has been very rewarding on a number of levels.  Even though I’ve only been volunteering for a short period of time, I’ve been able to see my student, Nate, improve his reading ability. Words that were difficult for him in December, he can easily read today. So that’s been really encouraging to see. We read in a room with 5 other pairs and the students’ enthusiasm for the program is really evident. There seems to be a genuine love of reading amongst the program. I volunteer at Midtown West Elementary School, and the energy of the school is really exciting to see when I get there.


What inspired you to start volunteering with Read Ahead?

There are a lot of opportunities to volunteer in the city, and Mizuho sponsors a number of other ad hoc volunteer opportunities. If you have limited time, it can be difficult to find the time to do it. Read Ahead caught my attention because I could do it during my lunch break, the school wasn’t far away from the office, and I could go every other week. The fact that inspired me most was my own love of reading. I began reading on my own at a very young age. One of my teachers in grade school allowed me take home books from the school library, which not only prompted my interest in reading, but taught me to take care of books. I also enjoyed reading to my daughter, we read the same books so many times I could have memorized them. These factors were what inspired me to join Read Ahead.

How has your relationship with you student grown since you started reading together?

Our relationship has grown since we first started. He’s happy to see me when I come through the door. We get along quite well. He likes to talk about sports, his family, the places he’s visited, and of course, the books we’ve read. In one session, we spent time studying a map of the United States. He identified cities that he and his parents have visited, and we talked about points of interests like mountain ranges and national parks. It was a great way to get to know him better and expand his reading abilities beyond books.

Did you have someone who inspired you to read as a child?

I would have to say the person that inspired me most was my mother. She read a lot of books to me and when I was able to read on my own, she enrolled me in a book club. She didn’t have a lot of money but she didn’t mind spending it on the book club. Every other month, a new hardcover book would arrive in the mail. I would devour them so quickly that my mother was concerned that I wouldn’t have anything else to read. I enjoyed those books so much. I read them over and over again.

Is there a book that had an impact on your life?

There isn’t a single book that had an impact on my life, but there are many books that I cherish because of the enduring messages they contain. Along that line, some of my favorite books are Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and Aldous Huxley’s Point/Counterpoint. Last summer I completed my goal of completing all of the Harry Potter novels, which was fun.

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