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Worthy Cause: Read-Aloud Volunteer Program

Read-Aloud Volunteer Program is a non-profit organization that fosters a love of learning in children through reading and story telling. We are very excited to tell you more about them, and, more importantly, how you can support their crucial work.

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About Read-Aloud Volunteer Program

Read-Aloud Volunteer Program was started in 1995 by Dr. Marilyn Nye, and has since grown to work with five schools and manage approximately 105 volunteers. These volunteers are recruited to read one-on-one with children in Richmond and San Pablo (California) elementary schools.

The non-profit works on two levels:

First, to provide personalized reading experiences for children to improve their reading, comprehension, and social bonding skills. Volunteers instill in students the understanding that their interests are valued and supported, and work to build their self-esteem as the kids learn to view themselves as competent, capable, and full of wonderful ideas.

Second, to supply a home library of books for each of the students enrolled in the program. Through donations from individuals, foundations, community service groups, corporate grants, and contracts, they work with the students to build their personal library. They ensure that these libraries are filled with quality books to create generations of 'readers' rather than simply 'kids who read'.

How the Program Works

Read-Aloud Volunteer Program is different than a tutoring program, because their primary focus is to create a love of reading by making reading fun!

"Kids really want to come to the program, unlike with tutoring."
~ Crystal Merrill, Executive Director, Read-Aloud Volunteer Program

Teachers nominate students who are the most a risk with both reading and emotional skills—however, many kids ask to become part of the program voluntarily because they hear from participants about how much fun they have.

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Students get one-on-one reading time with their volunteer during a designated time selected by the teacher. Most of the time the program is held in the school's library, usually between recess and lunch, but occasionally during a set-aside reading time.

Once a volunteer is paired with a child, they stay paired for the entire time that child participates in the program. A student's reading plan and progress is tracked through a binder that contains 4-5 books that are personally selected for each child's needs. More books are added in the event the student goes through all the pre-selected books.

Every other week, students get to take a book home, so at the end of the year they have a home library of 14-17 books. Some students participate in the program for all three years, so their home library can grow to be as large as 50 books!

Building Strong Bonds

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Research over the last decade has led to a new understanding of the challenges involved in learning to read, along with evidence-based results that prove children learn through their relationships with adults. It is no surprise, then, that the volunteers are at the heart of the Read-Aloud Volunteer Program’s mission.

They are dedicated and caring individuals who help build self-esteem in young readers through the bonds they form and the skills they teach. Over time, each child’s story is shared with volunteers who, in turn, provide a supportive ear and voice for the child. These bonds are also used to determine which books the children would be most interested in. These relationships support the resiliency of each child all while creating a joy of reading and learning.

How You Can Help

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If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, you can apply directly online. There are specific volunteer requirements, and you can learn more about them here. During the school year, applications are accepted until February.

During the summer, Read-Aloud serves four Richmond Community Centers through Camp Achieve. To receive more information and/or apply to be a summer volunteer you can do so online.

Read-Aloud Volunteer Program is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and all donations are fully tax deductible. Donations to the Read-Aloud Volunteer Program are gratefully accepted, and you can donate directly on their website.

You can also donate through Amazon smile by choosing Read-Aloud Volunteer Program Foundation as the charity associated with your Amazon Smile account.

About Crystal Merrill

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Crystal Merrill is the Executive Director of Read-Aloud Volunteer program. She started with Read-Aloud as a volunteer in 2011.

She was an office manager and program coordinator before becoming their Executive Director. She joined Read-Aloud after receiving her PhD in Materials [Science], when she decided to give back in a meaningful way that would impact the lives of children.

"[I have] rediscovered how fun kids are. When you connect with kids year after year it becomes very rewarding."
~ Crystal Merrill, Executive Director, Read-Aloud Volunteer Program
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