When not covering Gamecock sports for Spurs and Feathers newspaper, 63-year-old Glenn Snyder enjoys reading to preschoolers at St. John Baptist Church. He especially likes the books.
“They are very different from when I was young,” he said laughing. “They have pop-ups and pullouts, and the graphics are just amazing. They’re a pleasure to read.” And that’s not all that’s changed, Snyder said.
“The kids seem to be getting smarter all the time. We have 4-year-olds who are learning Spanish.”
Snyder, who has been reading to 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds at St. John’s preschool for nine years, is a volunteer for Rolling Readers, a national literacy program with independent chapters across the country.
As Darlene Paradise, director for the Columbia program, explains, Rolling Readers tries to instill within children a love for reading at an early age.
“What parents and teachers are finding is that children are being tested on reading so much that it becomes stressful, and if it’s stressful they won’t want to do it,” Paradise said. “They forget how much fun it is just to hear a story read aloud.”
Rolling Readers recruits, trains and places volunteer readers in schools, child-care centers, after-school programs and preschools such as St. John’s. Paradise said they target underserved or Title I schools but won’t turn any volunteer or school away.
“Every school has needy children. But that’s our focus, especially when someone said ‘put me where there’s the greatest need,’” she said.
In addition to reading aloud, Rolling Readers trains reading tutors for grades one through three and hosts two yearly book giveaways. The group recently completed its spring giveaway, distributing more than 4,000 books to children throughout the Midlands. Volunteers like Snyder pick up and present the books to their kids.
“Our volunteers are like the icing on the cake,” Paradise said. “We can teach kids the mechanics of reading, but we can’t teach them to love reading. You have to model that love or excitement, ... and that’s where our volunteers come in.”
For more information on Rolling Readers, call (803) 733-7323 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.