In their own words: a volunteer and an executive director share in the joy of reading to children

United Way’s volunteer readers enrich young minds.

Reading to children is a big deal. It cultivates a love of literacy at an early age and aid in school readiness, which are cornerstones in United Way’s work in healthy child development.

Our Seacoast office is entering its third year of the K-Ready Reader program, which places community and corporate volunteers into local child care centers to read aloud to children. It’s just an hour a week, but the benefits are big-time.

All you have to do is listen to Celissa and Bryanne…

Celissa, Executive Director of Growing Places

Every Friday afternoon as 3 p.m. approaches the children in the Pre-K room in Growing

Celissa Hoyt, Executive Director of Growing Places

Celissa Hoyt, Executive Director of Growing Places

Places in Lee, NH wait by the window watching for Bryanne, and squeal with delight when they see her car pull in.

“I like when Bryanne comes. I like the books in her bag,” one of the children exclaims!

It’s clear the children cannot wait for Bryanne to visit. In 2011 United Way of the Greater Seacoast started their volunteer reader program, Bryanne was our first volunteer reader as a result of this program.

Bryanne’s visit is something that the children look forward to every week! They get excited on Fridays and cannot wait for her to come! And her impact goes beyond the walls of their classroom. One parent told us her daughter often pretends to be Bryanne at home, reading stories to the family dogs!

Reading aloud to young children fosters stronger caregiver/child relationships, promotes a positive attitude about reading and helps to develop communication and logical thinking skills.

The United Way of the Greater Seacoast Area volunteer reader program trains volunteers each year using techniques that effectively help to build literacy skills. Research has shown that reading aloud to young children is the single most important activity to build future reading proficiency and school success.

Bryanne, United Way K-Ready Volunteer Reader

Over two years ago, my company gave all employees the option of completing a day of service with the United Way. Since there was not a Day of Caring in my area, I worked it out so that instead of a day of service, I would volunteer an hour a week. I researched a few different programs and then found the new reader program with United Way.

It was the inaugural year, 2011, and there were not many of us that first day. We spent a day of training with United Way leaders and organizers, learning how to work with children, what we could and shouldn’t do, and how to integrate current curriculum and topics the children were already learning with my selection of books. Two years later, it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had.

The children teach me their personalities and through that, direct me to what books they love. Berenstain Bears, that crazy ‘Pigeon’, and anything funny seem to be a hit. It is amazing to watch the transformation of the children. They start out not quite sure of me or how long they can sit and listen.Then, over the weeks, they end up spending more and more time in front of me. There are some days when you can hear a pin drop, as they all sit on their rug squares and take in something new or an old favorite.

Watching them make connections between the stories and things in their own lives, or things they have learned, is why I love this opportunity. Some parents have approached me and said how much their children look forward to Friday afternoons. What they do not know, is that I look forward to it too. It is a perfect way to end the week for me. I set aside the crazy work week and focus on passing on some of my favorite stories and my love of reading to this great group of kids.