Volunteers help CPS children with reading

February 16, 2012 3:27:39 PM PST
One adult, one child, one book at a time. Volunteers working in the schools help Chicago Public Schools children with reading.

Students are always excited when the big yellow bus arrives for a field trip. But today it's the adults who get a break from the norm. Employees from financial services company UBS are visiting Jose De Diego Community Academy in Wicker Park. They volunteer to spend about an hour every week for an entire school year to read with a student through the nonprofit, Working In The Schools (WITs).

"It's one of the highlights of my week. I really enjoy coming here and working here with these kids and showing them how much fun it is to read," Macek said.

"Just seeing the excitement and the joy of them wanting to come and work and get excited about reading and sometimes just about sharing what my mom said or what my grandma said or what we did in school. It's just great building that relationship over the year with them," Sinead Aylward, volunteer, said.

The power lunch reading program is one of several formats implemented by the 20-year-old non-profit. The group aims to improve literacy while providing tutoring and mentoring.

"Sometimes more than 90% of the students are coming from low-income families and might not have the opportunity to be reading in the home or to have access to a lot of books in the home," Brenda Palm, executive producer of Working in the Schools.

School administrators say they see measurable improvements in reading since the program started in September. These third graders say they appreciate the extra attention.

"He helps me read and he helps me like do the activities when I don't know how to do it," Gonzalez, 9, said.

"It's good that somebody wants to see me and read with me every week on Tuesdays and it's very nice of them," Naomi Willard, 9, said.

Working in the Schools has 36 corporate partners and operates in 24 Chicago public schools. It also provides opportunities for individuals to volunteer. Find out more about volunteering and the program at witschicago.org.