Profile of Success: Sean Hughes
Her reading mastery reached 90 percent.
Last fall, on my first day of being a volunteer reader, I didn't quite know what to expect. As a parent, I understand the importance of developing reading and literacy skills early on in life, but I didn't know the extent of the need for this program at Alfred E. Burr School in Hartford.
I quickly realized that just by showing up each week, I was a hero in the eyes of the two second grade girls I was helping. They truly appreciated the time I spent with them and my patience. And throughout the process, the school made it easy for us to volunteer by providing books, reading comprehension and learning strategies as well as academic and other background information about the students.
After returning for the second session in January, I was very proud to learn that one of the students from my first session had "graduated" from the program. I continued to work with the other student, who when we started the program, had a second grade 'sight word' mastery of 50 percent. Our goal was to essentially master the Dolch Sight Words for second grade by the end of the winter term in early March. For me, this experience was much more than helping a child learn to read and develop skills to help her succeed in school, it was also about developing a relationship of trust and compassion. Yes, it took some time for her to feel comfortable with me, but as we spent regular time with each other, the comfort level rose. I really enjoyed her personality and seeing her confidence grow. It was a refreshing experience to put a smile on her face each week.
During the winter session, she was challenged with showing her new skills by reading the book titled: How I Became a Pirate. I really wanted her to read it on her own '“ I was patient, coached her and assisted her with the difficult vocabulary. We used pictures and other visual clues from the book to help better comprehend some words and their meaning. Similarly, the words helped bring the pictures to life for her. In the end, I can honestly say she did it and completed the 40 page book. Not only that, but when we went through the 'sight words' during our last session, she mastered about 90 percent of them. This is an experience I will never forget '“ it was a simple joy in my life. I am honored and gratified to be a part of her achievement. I congratulated her and encouraged her to continue in this reading journey. I'm sure she felt a measure of satisfaction and confidence as well. I hope she will use this experience as a reminder that she can do anything that she puts her mind to.
--- Sean Hughes, Conning, United Way volunteer reader
As a leader in Hartford's Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, United Way understands the importance of reading with children, helping them succeed early in life. Over the past year nearly 275 volunteers from 40 local workplaces have spent over 1,000 hours reading with children one-on-one to build vocabulary and comprehension skills. These skills are needed so children learn to read on grade level by third grade, stay on track to high school graduation and to succeed in the future.
Do you want to get involved? Learn more about this opportunity and others at unitedwayinc.org/read.