Volunteer reading program helps lift literacy standards
|Caroline Jones reads with Emily Gibbons|
|Rosie Morgan reads with PJ Falaniko|
|Jane Armitage helps Paris Kojongian with her word list|
Broadcaster and author, Caroline Jones, with 20 fellow volunteers from Our Lady of the Way parish North Sydney are helping students to improve their literacy skills at Holy Family Primary, Emerton.
Established three years ago by Holy Family’s principal, Sr Brenda Kennedy and written by one of the school’s special education teachers, the program provides one-on-one literacy support to Year 1 students who require additional assistance.
‘Much of the research shows that one-on-one support is an effective way to improve literacy standards in children,’ said Sr Brenda. ‘The volunteer reading program provides this additional support to students who may not otherwise get this opportunity. We are very grateful for the support of our volunteers.’
Sixteen per cent of Holy Family’s 310 students are from an indigenous background, with about one third from a language background other than English (LBOTE).
The school receives special education funding for 17 per cent of students, however the reading volunteer program is conducted with students who are not funded but who require additional reading support.
‘Our volunteers visit the school once a fortnight and follow a very structured program with students that includes working on reading, sounds, writing and verbal language,’ said Sr Brenda. ‘After each session, the volunteer writes a short report commenting on the student’s progress.’
Sr Brenda initially appealed for volunteers at North Sydney because of the previous relationship between these parishes, which are both led by Jesuit priests, and because she thought parishioners may have some time to help.
Caroline Jones said that she initially volunteered for the program because she wanted to give students the chance to share her love of reading and writing.
‘My grandmother taught me to read and write before I went to school and there were always lots of books at our house,’ said Caroline. ‘Reading and writing are two of the greatest joys of my life and so I wanted to give other children the opportunity to fully experience this.’
Parishioners Jane Armitage and Rosie Morgan, who has worked as an English as a second language (ESL) teacher, were others who initially put up their hands.
‘Sr Brenda’s enthusiasm was very inspiring,’ said Jane. ‘It seemed like the right time in my life and a simple thing that I could do to make a difference.’
Rosie says she really enjoys seeing the development of students over time. ‘Each year you really see the children progress and it has been particularly evident in this year’s group of children,’ said Rosie. ‘The students have especially gained confidence and enthusiasm for reading. As soon as you walk into the classroom they say, ‘pick me first’. They love it.’
Jane, Rosie and Caroline all agree that a wonderful sense of community and appreciation has developed between the volunteers and staff and students at Holy Family Primary thanks to the reading program.
‘I really enjoy seeing the extraordinary quality of teaching at the school and being a part of the life of the school,’ said Caroline. ‘In addition to the reading program, we also enjoy coming to the school for special events and activities.’ ‘Sr Brenda and the teachers are all so full of enthusiasm. It is a thriving and exciting place,’ said Jane.
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