Mike and Lynn, both lifelong volunteers who recently retired, heard about the Power Read program last summer and were intrigued by the idea.They quickly bonded with their reading partners, talking to them about their weekends and classes and favorite books while the kids eat lunch. Lynn has seen her first- and third-grade students go from shy strangers to eager readers, excited to hear the story and point out pictures each week.
Mike is happy to help expand the kids’ vocabulary and literacy skills, a supplement to the reading lessons they are getting in the classroom. “It’s remarkable how many fewer words kids from less affluent homes are exposed to in their daily lives,” says Mike, citing the shocking statistic that low-income kids hear 30 million fewer words by age 3 than their middle-class peers.
The Power Read program, currently at more than 30 schools and sites in central Iowa, focuses on serving struggling readers. Many face barriers to reading and may come from homes where English is not the primary language spoken. Power Read is an opportunity for these students to practice reading and develop literacy skills with a caring adult outside the classroom.
“My first-grader tells me that it’s her favorite part of the week,” Lynn says. “It’s my favorite part. too.”
For Mike, Power Read has given him the opportunity to relive the time he spent reading to his own children when they were little, while also making an impact on another generation.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed in my life,” he says. “It’s great to be able to share that with other people. We have a lot more in common than we have different. When we share positive experiences, we learn from others.
The best gift you can give is your time.”