As the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for Reach Out and Read, I have received the opportunity to do many great things with this organization. One experience that really stands out in my mind was when I was able to work with a local photography student to take pictures of our volunteer readers at different clinics throughout the area. As we made our rounds to each clinic, I explained to the parents why we were there and they graciously allowed us to take photos of their children. While the photographer snapped away, I received my first real opportunity to observe the volunteer reader program in action.
By the time we got to our last clinic, Swope Health Central, the photographer as well as myself were getting a little tired. We experienced all sorts of kids, from older kids who were eager to read out loud, to younger kids who were shy and needed coaxing. We encountered a mix of excitement and nervousness as each volunteer reader took command of the room to read a story to the different children waiting to see the doctor. But we had one more clinic to go, so we put a smile on our faces and walked into the waiting room ready for anything.
What we experienced exceeding all of my expectations, it came in the form of one of the cutest little boys I have ever seen. He probably was around two years old with big, brown eyes and a wide, sweet smile. When we walked in, he was sitting on the volunteer reader’s lap carefully listening to every word she said during her very animated version of the book Bang, Boom, Roar. Halfway through the story, the little boy’s grandma interjected that they needed to run outside to their car to grab something. When she told the little boy to come with her you could just see his face crumble as he began to cry. He reached his tiny hands up to the volunteer reader and held on tight as tears rolled down his face. The grandma looked surprised that he didn’t want to leave the readers side, so she asked if it was okay if she ran out to the car alone. Rocking the little boy, the volunteer reader said that was no problem and once again began reading the story, picking up right where she left off.
Watching all these actions unfold before my very eyes somewhat astounded me. I knew that our volunteer reader program was a great way to get kids to listen to a story, but this was something completely different. The fact that our volunteer made such an impact on this little boy, enough of an impact to where he was visibly upset when he was told he had to leave, proves that something as small as sitting in a clinic waiting room and reading to a child for an hour out of a week, really can make a difference in their life. Because of our volunteer readers, kids are shown the importance of reading and how much fun it can be. This little boy absolutely loved being read to and you could tell by watching him interact with the reader. Each page she read, his smile spread wider and his laugh rang louder. In that moment he was exactly what he was supposed to be, a young boy enjoying a great story.