A Love of Reading and of Helping Young People
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
DECEMBER 12, 2016 – Everyone in Margaret Dickinson’s family loves to read.
“In my household, reading in king,” Dickinson said. “All of us read.”
So, when she started thinking about volunteering, she thought that helping a child struggling with reading would be rewarding.
“If you can read, you can do everything,” she said. “It’s hard to want to read a book if every word you have to sound out.”
With that in mind, she took ReadWS’s training to become a tutor with The Augustine Literacy Project about a year ago. Now, two days a week, she goes to Speas Global Elementary School and works with a student there.
“He is a very sweet little boy,” Dickinson said. “He wants to please and he wants to learn. He would love to have me come every single day. He really tries…He is happy to work on the things he is not good at…He enjoys the process of learning.”
It has been an enriching experience for her as well.
“This gives you so much satisfaction,” she said, “because you are working one-on-one with a child and you are going to make a difference in that child’s life.”
Toward the end of sessions, she likes to read to the student so he can just sit and savor the story.
On Wednesday, Dickinson joined tutors, principals at the schools where they volunteer, school board members Dana Caudill Jones and Lida Calvert Hayes, and others in Read WS’s celebration of reading and of The Augustine Literacy Project at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Elementary principals such as at Wendy Brewington of Clemmons, Trish Spencer of Union Cross and Amanda Smith said they appreciate all that the tutors do for students. An adult working one-on-one with a student also helps the child feel appreciated as a person, Spencer said.
“It helps them know they are cared for,” she said. “When you feel like you belong in school, you are going to do better.”
During the formal program, Henri Brown, the executive director of ReadWS, talked about Becky Clingman and others founding the literacy project in 2001 and about how it has grown to include more than 150 tutors at 35 schools.
Brown recognized such retiring board members as Corliss Thompson-Drew, who is the director of the Psychological Services Department for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Summer Riley, the literacy teacher leader for pre-kindergarten through second grade at Cook Literacy Model School, talked about Cook becoming the first school in the system where all teachers have been trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading, which combines visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic techniques with an in-depth exploration of the rules of reading.
“We can see it working,” Riley said.
The celebration included lunch, and, at one table, Alicia Bailey, the principal at Cash Elementary, sat with several of the Cash volunteers. One of them was Kim Herman, who works with a second-grader.
She likes being able to give back to the community by working with a child.
“I like watching her grow,” said Herman, who also serves as PTA president at Cash.
She especially likes seeing those moments when something clicks, such as when the girl was able to read “shock,” a challenging word because of the “sh” at the beginning and the “ck” at the end.
As a bonus, the training taught Herman a lot about reading that she can use with her two daughters – Avary Anne, who is 9, and Ainsley, who is 6.
Another tutor present was Melissa Ledbetter, who was the school system’s homeless liaison before retiring. She works with a second-grader at Old Town Elementary.
“I love to read,” she said. “I give books as gifts all the time.”
So helping a child become more comfortable reading has been a worthwhile experience.
“I really enjoy it a lot,” Ledbetter said.
After retiring from a career with the Forsyth County Public Library, Laura Weigand took the training and started tutoring at Moore Elementary. She gets to spend time one-on-one with a delightful 7-year-old, and she can see positive results.
“It’s making a difference in a child’s life, and, selfishly, it’s making a difference in my life as well,” Weigand said.
Chiquita Evans also tutors at Moore.
“I love it,” Evans said.