A Day in the Life of a Reading Club Mentor

By Josh Caballero

Most of us have picked up a book to read to or with someone else at some point in our life. We have read to our children, younger siblings, nieces and nephews. We have grabbed the newspaper or our phone and read a section to our spouse, colleague or friend. We can remember grabbing a book and reading along in school as a teacher read to us. These simple moments seem exactly that—simple. Yet we often forget this when we are asked to consider volunteering to read to children at a school. We think it takes a certain type of person with some sort of specialty in reading and other skills that we don’t have. We think, “I don’t have a teaching background or know how to work with kids. I wouldn’t know where to begin to help children improve their reading.”

If I’m honest, I’m not sure that I often know where to begin when helping a kid to read, but I can tell you what it looks like for me and the volunteers Waco CDC works with at various campuses:

Every week, one day a week, I take my lunch break to drive to West Avenue Elementary School. I arrive and say hi to the clerk in the front office and get signed in. Then I go to the counselor’s office to select books for my group to read. Once I have the books selected, I go to the cafeteria to wait on my students to grab their lunch. When they see me, they smile and wave and move to the front of the line. After they have their lunch trays we go to our reading area. We sit down and as they eat their lunch, they talk about things that are happening that week, what they’re learning in school, and what they think the book I’ve picked for us will be about based on the cover. Once we’ve done this we begin to read while they finish eating. Usually, we take turns reading. If they struggle at certain points I help them to slow down, sound out different words, and teach them the definition of words they haven’t read before. Sometimes I read to them and have them follow along. Other times they do all the reading. We’ll work on recognizing words on flash cards or make up our own story with the pictures in the book. When our time is up, we go back to the cafeteria to throw away their lunch trash and they join their classmates to go back to class.

Right now, there are almost 20 mentors reading at West Avenue Elementary School, more than 70 at Brook Avenue Elementary School, and nearly 10 at JH Hines Elementary School. The reality is that it does take a very specific type of person with a particular skill set to be a reading club volunteer. It takes a caring adult who is willing to be committed to give up a small portion of their time each week to get to know a kid while they sit and simply read together. If this sounds like you and you’re interested in being a reading club volunteer, please contact Josh Caballero at [email protected]

If you would like more information about mentoring opportunities in Waco, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jillian Jones with the Prosper Waco team. You can contact her by sending an email to [email protected], or completing this form on the Prosper Waco website.

Josh Caballero is a community organizer in North Waco for Waco Community Development and works closely with local schools, churches, businesses, and residents in the Brook Oaks and Sanger Heights neighborhoods. Originally from the panhandle of Texas, Josh has been a Wacoan for 12 years and enjoys living in the Sanger Heights neighborhood with his wife Jennifer and daughter Millee Grace.

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