By Ryan Salminen
Sixty minutes. What can you do in that time? Get your car serviced? Convince yourself that you are going to go to the gym and wind up eating the remaining contents of your fridge? Stalk your ex on Facebook and begin browsing their list of friends for potential people you could date, just to frustrate them? All very important things (none of which I do, of course) ,I will give you that much. However, something that may feel slightly more worthwhile and rewarding may be just what the karma fairy ordered.
SMART is a fancy little acronym that stands for “Start Making a Reader Today.” It’s an inspiring Oregon organization that has been around since 1992, recruiting volunteers to read one-on-one with children in grades K through 3, many of which who are in desperate need of literacy support. For the small price of one hour of your time once a week, you can become a SMART partner and start making a difference in a child’s life. From something as simple as reading a story you can help reinforce what kids are learning in their classrooms, boost their self-confidence in their abilities, and broaden their social skills.
“Experts say about 5% of the nation's children learn to read with ease, almost intuitively. An additional 20% to 30% learn to read with relative ease once they begin some kind of formal instruction. However, the bulk of children (about 60%) have difficulty.” -Council for Basic Education
“Reading to a child before work is a great way to start the day,” said WK12 Coordinator Jinnina Chiles. “If you can read, you can participate in SMART, it’s that simple!” Jinnina has been volunteering in the program on and off for the past ten years and encourages everyone to get involved. Books are provided at the schools, and typically the child will tell you what he or she wants to hear that day. If you're a W+K'er, W+K will pay for your parking at the location, your time for being there, and if it could not get any easier, there is a field on our timecards to code hours for SMART. You don't have to be part of W+K to join though, and in fact, if you aren't and sign up for SMART, we will just think you're that much cooler. If you are still unsure of the process and would like to give it a dry run, you can take a brief orientation class before partaking.
To learn more about available volunteer positions, apply online, and find local schools in your area, check out: www.getsmartoregon.org. Yale University states that three quarters of students who are poor readers in the third grade will remain poor readers in high school. Let’s all try and help change that statistic and dive in to a short story with an attentive little listener, I’m sure it will be the highlight of both of your days.