A remarkable 40% of America's 4th graders are reading below the basic level and this rate is even higher, 68%, among low-income 4th graders. Many children lack access to crucial one to one reading at home or at school.
By 2030, about 1 in every 5 Americans will be 65 years or older. Seniors need to engage in meaningful activities for successful aging and avoiding isolation / depression.
Grandmentor has a dual mission:
(1) To improve reading level/literacy (vocabulary, comprehension, sense of story, love of reading) for underprivileged students grades K to 3rd through one-on-one reading and mentoring.
(2) To promote healthy aging and senior integration in the community through socially-responsible volunteering without the potential inconvenience of having to travel to the school.
A UNIQUE INNOVATIVE PROGRAM
GrandMentor has been piloted at three New York city elementary schools and one public school at Oakland, CA. Each first and second grader is paired with a mentor and the same pair is maintained during the academic year. Once a week mentors from all around the United States connect with elementary school children over Skype to read and discuss selected books. The one-on-one reading sessions take place during after school hours or in-school hours.
What makes Grandmentor different and more educational than other so-called similar volunteer read-to-a-child programs?
There are many, many volunteer programs where adults will read a story to a child and even ask the child simple questions such as Did you like it? What was your favorite part?
What makes Grandmentor unique is the individual e-guides developed for each and every story by experienced teachers and reading specialists. These e-guides give specific questions for mentors to ask the child, page by page as well as at the end of each story.
While the goal for our program includes increasing a child’s love of books, sense of story and a desire to become a better reader, we attempt to increase literacy skills in a similar manner as occurs in the classroom when teachers read to the whole class or in smaller reading groups.
Questions are asked to increase a child’s vocabulary, comprehension and develop their knowledge base. The e-guide focuses on a particular word appearing on a page whose meaning enhances the child’s understanding of the story and is often a word that the child will hear in many books or in conversation in the future.
The questions asked after each page are designed to help a child understand what is being read to him/her and to make predictions about what will follow in the story. Many times the e-guide will direct the mentor to expand on a word, a fact, an occurrence in the story that will help to expand a child’s knowledge base.
Sometimes the e-guide for particular books will concentrate on developing a child’s sense of story. Questions such as those frequently used during literacy times in classrooms include:
Who are the main characters?
What is the setting for the story?
What is the problem in the story?
How is the problem solved?
Another important learning skill taught in the classroom which emphasizes comprehension is retelling.
At the conclusion of some stories, the e-guide will instruct the mentor to ask the child to retell the story in his/her own words. The mentor can help the child if there are events or characters the child doesn’t remember by giving clues or asking questions. The skill of retelling is an important one for children to develop and is often a part of assessments the child will be given in school, such as the frequently administered Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).
We read non-fiction as well as fiction books so that children will become familiar with the special literacy format of each. The goals for reading non-fiction specifically include increasing a child’s knowledge base and learning about the non-fiction literacy format of the Table of Contents, the glossary, the index, photo/picture inserts, captions and the common use of photographic illustrations rather than drawings. We do this on a grade appropriate basis.