Daily Point of Light # 1759 Oct 31, 2000

There is a national literacy program called “ America Reads.” This program reaches as far as Alaska, where in the city of Soldotna, grandparents volunteer their time to share love as well as academic skills. The Foster Grandparent Program at the Soldotna Elementary School have giving hearts, patience and a concern for the generation to come.

The mission of the grandparents is literacy. Fourteen volunteers come to the school on a regular basis to have time with the children. This time is used to teach and reinforce reading skills. Each grandparent has a specific classroom where they work with the students two to four days per week. These grandparents are involved in the Foster Grandparent Program for a second year.

The Foster Grandparent program continues during the entire school year. The grandparents receive a $2.55 per hour stipend for their services, and the grandparents tutor up to 20 hours per week. In addition to the stipend, transportation costs are provided as needed. The dedication of the grandparents goes far beyond the 20 hours, and you will find them at the school more than the scheduled time. Their dedication to the program is inspiring.

Many students need extra practice and help learning to read. Working parents often find it hard to read with their children as often as it is needed to reinforce the skills they learn. The grandparents help to fill that need. They usually sit in the back of the classroom, and the children come and read to them one at a time. Their patience, compassion, and diligence is a joy to the children and makes the children feel as if they have one more special person in their life that loves them.

The Foster Grandparents also do related activities like reading comprehension. They will have the children retell the story after they read it and review their word cards. The volunteers had to go through a training session to learn how to help children learn to read. They coach the child to sound out the words and to use other reading strategies. The coaching, encouragement and loving attention are doing wonders for the students at the elementary school.

This group of grandparents are building a stronger community by helping the children read, the teachers be more effective, and the school be more of a family atmosphere where there are numerous opportunities for love and sharing. All of these factors contribute to a stronger and healthier environment for the children and a brighter future for the community.