The Read Aloud Partners program started at Calistoga Elementary School as Rolling Readers in 1994. I attended a Mentoring Conference in San Diego where I met the RR founder and asked to join Calistoga Elementary to their program. The huge benefit was they sent us free books three times a year to any class that had a community reader coming in. It was also a way for me to include volunteers in the school who did not have the time or inclination to tutor individual students in the program I was coordinating.
We had Rolling Readers with the book distribution in the school for about 5 years with 8-10 classes participating. Unfortunately the RR organization ended with the untimely death of its founder Robert Condon. A number of the Rolling Readers continued to come to school to read in classrooms with teachers they had become attached to. Many were Soroptimist members.
We did not continue the book distribution as I was working full time coordinating AfterSchool programs at both school sites. On my retirement I asked the Soroptimist Club to take the now renamed Read Aloud Partners Program on under the SIC Education Committee so we could fundraise for books for the students to take home for family libraries. It steadily grew and this year it encompasses all 23 classes at CES with a community volunteer Read Aloud Partner and books will be given to all children in the Fall, Spring and just before Summer Break.
Why did you start RAPP?
After retirement from 40 + years in education as a teacher, a parent educator, author of parenting materials, mentor program coordinator and Afterschool program administrator I couldn’t quite leave the children! Especially Calistoga’s children who I had been involved with for 20 years and the first ones were becoming parents themselves. I knew in my heart and from research that a critical way to improve the academics of children in low income families, especially with second language environments, is to encourage a love of books and reading – and fill the homes with books!
How was it received?
Teachers were very happy to have a community members come in weekly to inspire their students. Although many teachers do read aloud to the students it becomes more effective when the children see an outside person who wants to be with them to share favorite stories with them and volunteers to do so. Soroptimist members and community members signed up readily to join the program. It has never been difficult to recruit RAPPERS when the word gets out – even for the 5th and 6th grade classrooms.
Are the books you give the children part of this program?
A very important aspect of the program is the book distribution for children to take home. Teachers tell us that for many students, our books are the only ones they have at home. The great thing is the books are then available for ALL the family. Perhaps a parent might learn more English, younger children may read the book a year or two later when an older sibling passes it down, older children may read read to younger children.
Tax deductible cash donations are used to purchase new books for the students. Firstbook.org gives free books for shipping costs of .75/book but our requests are randomly filled so not dependable. Their Marketplace has a large variety of books for all ages starting at $2/book. The Scholastic Book Co has special pricing for low income schools so we can purchase books from $1 – $4 with our funds. With the need for almost 500 book three times a year it is a challenge.
Annually it would be helpful to have $5,000 for 1,500 books averaging $3.00 per book. It can be trimmed through successful Firstbook.org applications and Scholastic $1.00 selections. I do select quality books to grab the students attention – sometimes classics like Charlotte’s Web, Make Way for Ducklings, A Chair for my Mother while others might be a Lemony Snickets, Al Capone Does my Shirts or a teen magical fiction.
What is your background/training?
I have a Teaching Credential from the University of Bristol UK , taught in London, developed parent education programs in Stockton and St Helena, coordinated federally funded mentor and tutoring programs in the Upper Valley, and administered after school programs countywide through Napa County Office of Education.
photo courtesy of MF Photography