We caught up with one of our volunteer tutors who is eager to join our team of virtual literacy tutors and connect with students online in our after-school virtual tutoring program. Elaine has been a volunteer for over four years at multiple elementary schools and this year is taking on the challenge of virtual tutoring!
How did you start with ONE TO ONE?
I’m retired now, but worked as a librarian in a university and have been around literature my entire life. My career was mostly in the role of research reference and administration, where I helped university students find resources and develop writing and English language skills. When I heard about this opportunity to work with young children, I thought it was a dream volunteer opportunity – working with kids was something I didn’t get to do in my career. I felt like it would be both challenging and rewarding.
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering as a literacy tutor?
The thing that appealed to me the most was the ability to volunteer directly with kids and to see them grow into strong readers. Being able to connect with a child and make a difference in the way they learn is such a unmatchable experience.
Do you have a story you’d like to share about your literacy tutoring experience?
Sometimes the most important part of being a literacy tutor is being warm, encouraging and available. One of the students I was tutoring in the in-school program was a wriggler – he really liked to move around and didn’t seem like he wanted to be present in a tutoring session, or at school, for that matter. What I didn’t realize until later was that he was going through a really difficult time, with a parent at home with a terminal illness. Over the school year, he gradually opened up and I was able to connect with him. He started to enjoy coming to his tutoring sessions and it was great to see his stress fall away for 30 minutes at a time.
It really struck a chord with me that there were so many people around the school that support the kids and that we get to work as a team.
What would you want to share with our new volunteers?
For me, the community of ONE TO ONE tutors is something I didn’t expect going into my first year of tutoring. In one of my schools that I was volunteering at, a seasoned tutor, Brenda, was fabulous at reaching out to organize informal get-togethers with other volunteers. We would go for coffee or food to share our individual tutor experiences and chat!
What keeps you coming back year after year to volunteer?
I enjoy seeing the children develop over the school year (and sometimes through multiple years). A huge part of being a literacy tutor is creating that special relationship with a child and being a part of their team, encouraging them as they work on their reading skills. Being a volunteer literacy tutor is a way that I can contribute to building literacy skills in a way that I enjoy. I knew that reading is a complex skill to develop and plays out differently for different people. It takes a while to get used to tutoring but the results are so inspirational.
How does your background in literature affect the way you approach tutoring?
I have been reading for a long time and from an early age. Books and reading still are a key part of my enjoyment and I want to inspire kids to share in that enjoyment. I find so much pleasure in reading and its nice to be able to share that passion with students.
It is also important not to bring in your own history and preferences when tutoring with kids. As a past librarian, I was aware of the importance of connecting the right book to the right person. Part of that experience has come in handy to help kids find what I call the “A-Ha” moment where a kid finds that book that catches his or her interest.
Do you have a book that you are currently reading or would recommend?
I would recommend reading Leonard and Hungry Paul by Mumblin’ Deaf Ro, a book written by a brilliant Irish musician about some nice people living quiet and satisfying lives.
Find out more about volunteering with ONE TO ONE as a literacy tutor: