Friday, January 29, 2010

Benefits of Volunteering with Kids - from the Volunteer's Point of View

I recently heard a friend discussing her experiences as a SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) volunteer. Her comments gave me a new perspective on volunteering, and inspired me to sign up at a local school to volunteer my time as well.

My friend is studying Spanish these days, developing her own language and literacy in a second language. To complete her course requirements she is expected to do a service project in the community.

Because she loves “reading, kids and practicing Spanish,” her choice to become a SMART volunteer at a bilingual school was a natural. My friend “loves what she is doing” because she has a strong belief in the importance of literacy, in any language. She believes that the love of reading is a key to positive school experiences for every child.

What was inspiring for me was the chance to hear her talk about all the benefits that SHE is getting from her volunteer work. She is discovering schools outside of her neighborhood, and seeing firsthand the work these schools are doing to make kids feel comfortable and able to learn. She is working with kids from different cultures, and seeing how schools have changed since her own kids were young.

She is also enjoying the chance to discover new books in Spanish, meet and spend time with kids (from lots of different cultures and backgrounds), and most of all, practice speaking Spanish with native speakers (savvy first graders), who are helping HER build her skills too.
If you are a mentor or volunteer, please share some of the things you get from the experience.