If you enjoy reading, spending time with elementary-aged children, and can volunteer for at least 30 minutes a week working from home, RSVP needs your help.
Starting next month, the nonprofit community service organization will take over the Virtual Volunteer Reading program. Volunteers read online for 30 minutes at a time with students in Grades 1 to 5, using the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey VELLO Â© platform.
Students in 12 classrooms at Cole Manor Elementary School in Norristown will receive coaching, and discussions are underway to include several other schools in Delaware and Montgomery County as well as Philadelphia schools and after-school programs. In addition, parents can request after-school virtual reading sessions at home for their children.
âVolunteers should have basic computer skills, a love of reading, and the patience and flexibility to work with children,â said Jackie Matusow, RSVP Literacy Program Coordinator. Volunteers must also pass the background checks required by the state for working with children.
How it works
Last school year, the pandemic forced RSVP to suspend its long-running America Reads program, in which volunteers read one-to-one with children at their schools or at community sites such as libraries.
Last year, with in-person schooling closed across the country, United Way modified VELLO to work for children who learn at a distance or at home and expanded the program nationwide. United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey asked RSVP to implement the program in the Delaware Valley. RSVP reports that last year over 200 volunteers trained 354 area children.
A refinement this year eliminated the need to connect via Zoom. Instead, teachers request half-hour reading sessions on the VELLO calendar, and volunteers can view those requests and sign up to fill them out. When students and coaches meet online, the student chooses from a set of books suited to their reading level. Each book has a set of comprehension questions at the end for the student and volunteer to discuss.
The VELLO platform also includes training and education tips for new volunteers.
âWe look forward to resuming in-person coaching when the conditions are right, but the VELLO program is also here to stay,â said Michele Moll, CEO of RSVP. âFor some volunteers, especially the elderly, this is a great opportunity to contribute to the community at home or in the office. It is also an opportunity to help more children.
The experience of a volunteer
âI appreciated the personality of the children in our interactions,â said volunteer Dianne Caggiano, who became a virtual coach last year. âI learned things from them. It was refreshing.
Caggiano also said she was âhappy with the caliber of the books. For example, we talked about the rainforest or things that sink or swim – does a watermelon sink? Or we would learn about the weather – what people used for clocks in ancient times: shadows and the sun. The selection of books on VELLO is provided by Raz-Kids, an educational software company. Its ever-growing library includes over 400 books spanning 29 reading levels.
âNo matter what the kid’s interest and reading level, they’ve got it,â Caggiano said. âThe library is rich enough that every child can find something. The teacher determines their reading level, but there is also an additional library they can choose from, which piques their interest.
Caggiano said she liked the convenience of the program. âYou don’t have to travel anywhere to meet your student. But you don’t have to be sitting in front of your home computer either. I did a few sessions from the beach and on the porch. The hardest part of the experience was getting to know the platform portal. It was good once I got it. If I needed to know anything, I texted Jackie. She was very quick and very supportive.
For more information
â¢ For more information on the Volunteer Reading Coach program, visit rsvpmc.org/virtual-literacy.
â¢ To register as a coach, visit rsvpmc.org/vello-volunteer-enrollment-form.
â¢ Parents can request an after-school reading coach for their child in Grades 1-5 at rsvpmc.org/virtual-literacy-1.
â¢ To ask questions about this program or other RSVP volunteer opportunities, email [email protected] or call 610-834-1040, ext. 123.
RSVP nonprofit connects volunteers to dozens of community service opportunities. Its programs improve the lives of vulnerable populations in the community with an emphasis on education and well-being.