As Ginny Tinkler sits with a young child in the library at Jefferson Elementary School, she listens carefully to every word being read to her. In fact, she’s all ears.
Tinkler is an RSVP volunteer with the Everyone Able to Read by Sharing (EARS) program. As a retired USD 428 educator, she wasn’t ready to give up her favorite part of being a teacher – working with children. She finds EARS a way to stay connected to teaching and children.
“Our volunteers, most of them parents or grandparents, team up with teachers to work individually with children,” said Linda Hogg, RSVP director. For some of these students, it is the first time they have had an adult’s undivided attention.
“The nurturing and one-on-one attention from an EARS volunteer during reading aloud encourages children to form a positive association with books and reading later in life,” she said. “In some cases, these relationships blossom into a youth friend/mentor relationship that follows the student through high school.
“Reading aloud is widely recognized as the single most important activity leading to language development,” Hogg said. “Reading aloud builds word-sound awareness in children, a potent predictor of reading success.
“Yet many of our young elementary students do not have the opportunity to read aloud at home. Many of these same students struggle in school to keep up with their classmates,” she said.
Hogg said that children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading.
According to a study published in the American Educator, evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.
“RSVP EARS volunteers want to reach more young people and give them the opportunity to share in the benefits of this program,” Hogg said.
That’s why she is seeking teachers with whom to pair EARS volunteers.
“We need teachers who would like to help their students increase their reading skills and at the same time give the student a positive nurturing relationship with a volunteer,” Hogg said.
Any educator or volunteer who would like to participate can call RSVP, 620-792-1614, and ask about EARS.