Dolly’s experience as a Volunteer Coach

I first heard about Strong Start’s Letters, Sounds and Words program at church. Our pastor was talking about the need for volunteers, to help young children learn to read, at Howard Robertson P.S. After attending the two training sessions, the school’s Site Co-ordinator hosted an orientation session for the newly trained Volunteer Coaches. I was assigned three girls, enrolled in the Words strand. Initially, I was a bit nervous about setting up the games and conducting the sessions! As it turns out, it ended up being easier than I thought.

Of the three little girls I was volunteering with, one comes to mind, Melody. She had blonde hair parted down the middle, and was in Grade One then. Melody had this sense of joy and hope and could always put a positive spin on any story. She always had a smile and loved talking about her brothers. Although it took us a while to get to Session 10, she was always excited for our time together, skipping down the hall to the library. She especially enjoyed helping me set up the games and activities. Even today, when she sees me in the hallway, she jumps out of the class line and gives me a hug.

At our last session, she looked over at me and said, “When I grow up, I want to teach children words, like you do”. I was so amazed that a first grader had such a profound thought of giving back to others. That alone, outshined everything else!

I thoroughly enjoy my time as a Volunteer Coach and I hope it’s a positive experience for the children as well. You can definitely see an improvement between Week 1 and Week 10. The children appreciate the one-on-one time they get with an adult. When I see how the program is designed, how it’s delivered and how the children grasp the concepts, there’s no doubt that the program works. It gives the children the boost they need! As a Volunteer Coach, it’s so rewarding to be a part of this program. Growing up, as an ESL student, I wish I’d had such a program at my school. Literacy puts you in a better position in life; it’s a skill that creates great benefits.