Volunteers share love of books with children

After a fall term spent organizing, scouting and preparing, the Child Development Center (CDC) on Jan. 18 started welcoming volunteers with Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) for weekly visits to Western Oregon University. The seven SMART volunteers read one on one with children for an hour each Wednesday morning, providing personal attention and sharing their enthusiasm for books.

SMART is a statewide, volunteer-based literacy program that provides reading support and free books for children to take home and share with their families.

CDC teachers already provide reading instruction to children at the center, but the one-on-one, non-teacher aspect of SMART volunteers takes it to another level, said Ingrid Amerson, director of Classroom/Family Engagement and SMART coordinator at CDC.

“The reader and the child can connect,” Amerson said. “The bond is going to be great between the two.”

SMART volunteers read with one child for about 15 minutes, then switch to another, Amerson said. The age of participating children in the SMART program ranges from pre-kindergarten through third grade. The end goal is to establish a love of reading and an understanding about the importance of books in the lives of young participants.

“Having members of the community come in makes it more of an event,” said Carey Gilbert, co-director of CDC. “It really underscores the importance of print and reading, both for the kids and their families.”

To learn more about the CDC program, visit triwou.org/centers/cdc. Those interested in becoming SMART volunteers may apply online at GetSmartOregon.org.