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The Y Readers program needs volunteers
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The Y Readers program is seeking about 250 “weekly reading buddies” who will commit to spending one hour per week for six weeks reading to a child. The program requires an additional hour of training. (Photo: Courtesy of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte)

Glenn H. Burkins is editor and publisher of Qcitymetro.com. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Email  editor@qcitymetro.com or call 704-442-1565.

If you’re looking for something meaningful to do this summer, consider reading to a child who could greatly benefit from your involvement.

Before you rush to dismiss the idea, consider this: I signed up this week to volunteer, and so have a few others who help produce this website….and we want you to join us.

The program is called Y Readers, a joint effort between the local YMCA and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The purpose of the program is simple and straightforward: Research shows that children who don’t read during the summer break lose about 2.5 months in reading proficiency. That means they return to school the next fall trailing their classmates who do read.

The Y Readers program seeks to address that problem.

In fact, during the program’s 13-year history, students who sit with volunteer readers have actually gained an average of four months in reading proficiency.

“They actually came back a little bit ahead of their counterparts,” said Molly Thompson, a spokeswoman for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

Thompson said the Y Readers program needs about 250 “weekly reading buddies” who will commit one hour per week for six weeks. (The program requires an additional hour of training.)

All of the volunteer work is done at 13 public schools scattered in Mecklenburg, Iredell (Mooresville) and Lincoln counties. The majority of the locations, of course, are in Mecklenburg. (Click to see map)

Most of the CMS schools are classified as Title 1, meaning that 75 percent or more of the students enrolled are considered economically disadvantaged. In some of those schools, 95 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch.

This won’t be the first time that I’ve volunteered to read to young students. I was part of a corporate reader program in Washington, D.C., so it didn’t surprise me when Thompson said that Y Readers in past years have found it to be “one of the most rewarding things they’ve ever done.”

The Y Readers program has been so successful that the national organization – YMCA of the USA – studied local efforts and is piloting a similar program in five other cities -- Baltimore, Md.; Tampa, Fla.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Evanston, Ill. and Silicon Valley, Calif. – this summer.

If you think you might be interested, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

What are the program dates?
Y Readers begins on Monday, June 25, and ends Thursday, Aug. 2.

How much time is required?
One hour per week for six weeks. An additional hour is required for training.

How old are the children involved?
Nearly all are rising first and second graders.

Can I select the school at which I would volunteer?

What about picking my own hours?
Within limits, yes. Morning hours are preferred for the Y Readers program, but volunteers are needed for later in the day as well. (Students also get free swimming lessons and other enrichment activities.)

Is there an age restriction for volunteers?
All volunteers must be at least 16 years old.

Is a background check required?
Yes, all volunteers must agree to a standard background check.

How do I volunteer?
Email Michelle Mosko at michelle.mosko@ymcacharlotte.org or call 704-716-6390. You may also visit the YMCA website: http://www.ymcacharlotte.org/programs/socialresponsibility/socialservices/yreaders/volunteer.aspx.

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October 5, 2015
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