Story by Jennifer Elliott, Volunteer Coach, St. Jacobs

In the winter of 2004 I worked with Jack, a bright eyed, kindergarten student. Jack and I worked together with the Sounds Strand. Jack was an enthusiastic participant in the program and we always enjoyed playing the games and reading together. On about the fourth session Jack was handling the pieces of a sound matching game and eyeing the corresponding photos on the playing board. He had placed a few of the pieces in the correct position when, after a few moments of thought he said, “So what you’re telling me, is that letters always make the same sound?”

“That’s right,” I responded, “there are some exceptions, but usually each letter makes its own sound each time we see it.”

“So a B always says b?” asked Jack.

“That’s right,” I replied.

“And a K always says k?” asked Jack.

“You bet,” I answered.

“So once I know what each letter says, I always know?” confirmed Jack.

“You got it,” I said.

“Alright then,” replied Jack, “I think we’re done here.”

And we were. The rest of our sessions Jack perfected his knowledge of the letters and the sounds they made. He read books and sounded out words he didn’t know and basically didn’t need me anymore, which I think might be the point of the program.

While setting up for a Letters, Sounds and Words training session the following year, I had a conversation with a few teachers including Jane Sullivan, Jack’s grade one teacher. We talked about the rewards of volunteering in this program and I shared Jack’s story. Mrs. Sullivan was surprised to hear that Jack had been in the program the year before as he was one of the strongest readers in her class. I was so pleased to hear of Jack’s success. I told the group that I would volunteer with this program for as long as I could. The satisfaction of being present at the moment a child first sees the unlimited possibilities reading provides, is one I will treasure the rest of my life.