When did you start volunteering for Read Ahead?
Nicole: This will be my sixth year.
Daniel: This will be my sixth year also.
What inspired you to volunteer with Read Ahead?
Daniel: I had a friend at Brown Brothers Harriman who introduced me to the program. He had been a mentor and was actually the company liaison to Read Ahead so when he described what a great program it was, I decided to sign up. I also just love to read and love working with kids, so it seemed like an interesting program.
Nicole: I started in 2007 when I was working at my first job out of college at Marsh and McLennan Companies, and I volunteered there for a year until I moved down to Brown Brothers Harriman. Fortunately, I found out that my new employer also offered this opportunity and have been volunteering downtown for the last five years.
How would you describe your experiences in Read Ahead’s program?
Daniel: The first student I read with was named Franklin and we read together every other week for 3 years. It’s incredible to watch them grow year-by-year. When Franklin first started, he really struggled to read. As we spent more time together and he saw that I was someone who was there from him, we started to see improvements. When you’re there with them on a week-to-week basis, you notice them improving little by little. The growth is really noticeable, especially the change when they come back from summer vacation and you see the progress they’ve made from the year before.
Nicole: Dan and I have been paired up as co-mentors since I started here five years ago. Our first student, Franklin, read with us for three years until he graduated from the program into middle school. It was so rewarding to see him grow so much over the course of our time together. Each year he came back more excited to see us and ready to read. It was great to see him grow in this aspect, I always tried to engage him with books that he was interested in. I think that making reading a positive experience is extremely important in building your student’s interest and desire to read. It’s the attitude I’ve taken into the program and I think it’s a great goal to have.
Did you have someone in your life who inspired you to read?
Nicole: My parents and my first grade teacher were both big influences on me when I was young. I struggled with reading as a young student, and I specifically remember my first grade teacher calling my parents and telling them that that I was having trouble. We kept at it and kept practicing until I grew to really enjoy reading.
Daniel: My parents absolutely inspired me to read as a kid. I remember growing up and loving the Chronicles of Narnia series, especially The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I also really loved The Catcher in the Rye.