May 19, 2015

Volunteer of the Month: Q&A with Navrooz Irani

Navrooz and Patrick

Navrooz and Patrick

Navrooz Irani is one of Read Ahead’s longest-serving volunteers—he started as a reading mentor in 2001, soon after he began working at Credit Suisse. Over the past 14 years, Navrooz has read with six Read Ahead students, all for at least two years. He currently reads with Patrick, who is often the first student to arrive at his Read Ahead session, eager to start reading mystery books with Navrooz!

What inspired you to start reading with Read Ahead?
The thing I like about Credit Suisse is that they have so many different volunteer opportunities. I started working at Credit Suisse in 2000 and was looking to do some volunteer work—one of the programs that came up was Power Lunch. I attended a lunch to see what it was about and was impressed by the prospect of spending an hour every week in a school, and I love kids, so I signed up. It’s been a great opportunity, to get out of work once a week and to go to the school, and sit on the small chairs—to become a kid again for an hour. It’s a good perspective on life.

Did you have someone who read to you as a child?
My mom was the one who introduced me to reading. I remember, in particular, a big book of nursery rhymes that we would read together. They were simple, but had the most beautiful illustrations and I remember reading it over and over.

What has been the most rewarding part of working with students through Read Ahead?
I’ve been lucky, being able to work with many students, each for a minimum of two to three years. Just being able to see them grow and develop over the years, seeing how they mature and how their vocabulary increases—it’s been quite thrilling for me.

I’ve also really enjoyed talking to my students about things they may not have learned in school. With Patrick, my current student, we opened up the Hardy Boys and saw that they use roman numerals to list the chapters. He didn’t know how to read roman numerals, so I took him through the basics—what one, five, ten looks like—and now he can read them and we quiz each other. It’s rewarding to watch him develop certain knowledge, which he may not be formally taught in school.

What is your relationship like with Patrick? Have you noticed any changes in him?
This was our first year reading together. He’s a really sweet boy—very quiet, but observant. In terms of reading, he definitely needed the extra support, but I’ve already seen an improvement, so that’s really encouraging. He would sometimes have trouble paying attention, but I discovered a strategy that really works for us. We’ll alternate every page, so he’ll read the page on his side of the book, and then I’ll read the page on my side of the book. Once I figured that out, it got a lot easier.

At the beginning of the year, he wouldn’t stop when he saw a comma or period, he’d just run through sentences. I told him that if you’re in a car, you have to stop for a stop sign, and that’s what a period is for reading. So each time I would remind him of this metaphor and that really helped improve his reading aloud.

What has it been like to work with all these different students?
The common thread is that they’re all very excited to read and really enjoy the program. However, each kid has been very different. James, my previous student, liked to read books from start to finish—he wouldn’t even let me read. There were other students who didn’t like reading as much, so I’d read a major chunk of the book to them, or entice them with word games. Patrick loves the A-Z adventure series, which really match his reading skills. James loved nonfiction, so we focused on that when we were together.