Q. How does Ready Readers work?
Our volunteers read every week for 30 minutes to a classroom of preschool age children attending early childhood centers in low-income communities in the St. Louis area. The children are between the ages of two and five. The same reader always reads to the same children, allowing the children to associate a special person with the fun of reading. Six times during each school year and once in summer, volunteer readers also give the children personalized new books to take home for further enjoyment. During the 2012-2013 school year we will read to 8,000 preschool children a week and gave more than 56,000 new, high-quality books. We also distributed many donated, new and gently used books to our preschools. When we receive donated books for older children, we donate them to other literacy organizations and programs working with older children.
Q. Is special training required to be a volunteer?
We require a love of reading, the ability to read well, a love of young children, and the willingness to commit to showing up when scheduled. We provide a 90 minute orientation training at the Ready Readers office. At the training session, volunteers will receive written materials and a training video on how to choose books, how to capture and hold the children’s attention, how to troubleshoot, etc. A few weeks after a volunteers starts reading, a Ready Readers staff person or Volunteer Support Corps member will visit the volunteer reader on-site and provide feedback and consultation. We also offer the opportunity to observe other readers, free quarterly workshops, resource suggestions for finding books, an online chat room, and other tips for effectively reading aloud.
Q. How often would I read? For how long?
We will schedule you so that your travel time and reading time last a total of about one hour. If you have more time, we will schedule you accordingly.
We arrange for you to read to the same children on a regularly scheduled basis. Most people read to one or two classes once a week. Some people read more often and in more than one school. The minimum commitment is once every other week. Some people team up with a friend or co-worker and alternate weeks.
We ask readers to commit to reading for at least one full semester, but we prefer a commitment of at least one full academic year. We encourage poeple to read during the summer too – but not unless you will be in town for at least 10 weeks.
How long you stay in a classroom depends on you, the class and on the number of groups and their arrangements. Most read-aloud sessions take no more than 30 minutes. Some readers like to cover 2 classes, which takes about an hour.
Most readers read to a whole class, because of space and organizational constraints in the schools. But in some cases, people are able to read to several small groups, one at a time. For example, a reader might divide a class of 20 into 4 small groups and read to each group for 15 minutes.
Q. What days of the week and times of day would I read?
We read when the preschools are in session, Monday-Friday, except from 11:30-12:30 (lunch time). All these schools are closed evenings and weekends.
Most schools like us to come after 9:00 a.m. and finish by 11:30 a.m. or to come after 1:00 p.m. and leave by 3:30 p.m. We coordinate volunteers’ needs with the schools’ schedules, and we can usually accomodate everyone who has a little flexibilty during the day.
We have many volunteers who work full-time and can take an hour break for an early or late lunch. We have readers whose companies encourage volunteerism and allow employees to leave work to read for us. If you live or work within 10-15 minutes of one of our schools, we can usually place you there.
Some schools stay open all year. Others close for the summer. We have readers who go all year and some who read from September-May and take the summer off. It’s up to the reader.
Q. Where are the schools? How do you decide what school a reader will go to?
There is a list of our current early childhood sites on this website. The schools are all Head Starts, Title I or other early childhood programs, which are located in neighborhoods all over the city and county of St. Louis as well as St. Charles County. We also currently have a few schools in adjacent counties. We work with you and the schools. Basically, we want you to choose a school that is convenient for you, as well as one that we know needs readers. If you want to go to an early childhood site that isn’t on our list, let us know. If at least 70% of the enrolled children live below the Head Start poverty guidelines, we are willing to add that early childhood site to our list.
Q. Where would I get the books to read to the children? How would I know what books to get?
We offer some donated books to volunteers when they attend the orientation training. We also help schools and companies start their own small lending libraries. But most people choose and bring their own books for weekly sessions. We provide booklists and new book suggestions to our readers online and on an ongoing basis.
We strongly urge readers to use the children’s sections of the public libraries, which allow online and phone renewal services and allow people to keep books for many weeks. Some readers prefer to get their read-aloud books from family and friends.
Visit our booklist on this website for books we recommend, short reviews of these books, and suggested age ranges.
Our readers may also purchase books at 40% off list price at The Booksource.
Q. Is there any upfront expense to volunteer?
Q. How do I begin the process of volunteering?
You can complete the online application, download an application and fax or mail to the Ready Readers office, or call us at 314-564-8070 for an application. Once we have your application, we will contact you and arrange your schedule with you.
Q. How do I donate books? Are there guidelines?
We welcome new and gently used picture books which can be read aloud to preschool children, ages 2-5.
We can use fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.; but the books you donate should be big enough for a class to see all the pictures. The book should have pictures on nearly every page, and the picture should occupy far more space than the words. We are a non-sectarian organization and do not use books about any religion or religious holiday.
We only use books that can be read aloud to very young children.
We do not use activity books, coloring books, jigsaw puzzles and toys.
We do not use books for children who are already reading – such as easy readers, chapter books, novels, etc.
Please see our booklist for titles we would like to have.
Please call us at 314-564-8070 or email Nora at firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions and to arrange for pick up/delivery.