Reading Together: A Parent Volunteer Program

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Prior to having a full-time counselor at my current school, there was a program in place called CARE Club (Choices Are Rarely Easy). Through this program, parent volunteers visited the K-4th classrooms once a month to present a lesson or read a book on various topics dealing with social skills {Hmm…that’s sounds a lot like what a school counselor does, right?}. The main reason this program existed is because until I came aboard, there was no full-time counselor to deliver these lessons, and it was a way for parents to volunteer in the classroom.

While I’m grateful for this program because it allowed the children to get a precursor to my monthly lessons, the system was pretty broken when I stepped into it. There was no one monitoring whether or not every class had a volunteer each month, which led to a lot of inconsistency in implementation. Also, parents were offered resource binders from 2006 with lesson ideas but were not given much guidance past that {these binders were accompanied by VHS tapes}. To me, if I were a parent with no teaching or counseling experience, I would be pretty intimidated to deliver a lesson like that to a classroom of children.

I discussed the program with my principal, and while she agreed that monthly social skills lessons were no longer needed from the parents because I was presenting them in a counseling capacity, she felt strongly that we have a parent volunteer program in place in our lower school. Because of this, I created my brain-child project called Reading Together as a way to keep our parent volunteers and use them in effective and consistent ways.

The program is divided into two groups with similar goals:

  • Kindergarten classes
  • 1st -4th grade classes


Kindergarten Program

For both groups, parent volunteers come into each K-4th class to read to the children. In Kindergarten, volunteers come once a quarter, and they read a book and facilitate an activity based on my most recent lesson in the classroom. For example, my 1st quarter lesson for Kindergarten this year was tattling vs. reporting {see lesson here}, and the parent volunteer that quarter read the book A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue and led the class through a corresponding worksheet. This allows the parents to reinforce and build upon the lessons I present to the Kindergarten classes.

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1st – 4th Grade Program

This program focuses on one book for the entire school year, with sections of the book read by parent volunteers once a month. The first reading took place in the month of September, and by May the entire book will have been read to each class. This year’s book choice is Wonder by R. J. Palacio, which is such a fantastic tool to promote empathy among children.

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Every school year, I will ask teachers for input on the book choice for the following year. Each book read through this program will focus on a strong moral issue so that it can be integrated into my monthly lessons.

For the book Wonder, I created handouts for the volunteers with a summary of the previously read section, a summary of their section, and possible discussion questions for them to ask the students. I also send home handouts to all 1st-4th grade parents detailing what was read that month and providing them with discussion points to reinforce the book at home {see sample page below}. If you ‘like’ The School Counselor Life on Facebook and e-mail requesting the full version of my handouts and volunteer packets, I will be more than happy to send them to you.

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So far, this program has been successful, but there are a few things I will change for next year {this year, I’m still working out the kinks}.

  • Next year, I will do the same program I implement with Kindergarten with 1st Although some 1st graders are connecting to the story, it takes those classes much longer to get through each section of the book because so much has to be explained.
  • I will pick a shorter book next year. I knew when I chose Wonder that it was an ambitious pick because of its length, but the story was so wonderful that I couldn’t pass it up. Next year’s book will be shorter so classes have more time left for discussion.

Comment below with any parent volunteer programs you’ve implemented at your school!

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