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Use vacation travel time to bond, grow in literacy

Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 10:53 a.m. CDT

If you haven’t enjoyed a vacation yet, I hope you get to take one. There are numerous reasons to do so, but sometimes when children travel with you, you rely heavily on electronic games, which are certainly not all bad, but a vacation needs to include human interaction that often busy lives don’t allow. 

So, hopefully you make sure there is time for not just doing things together, but using travel time to bond and grow in literacy. Reading the same book, word games, map bingo, road scavenger hunts, etc. are fun and challenging. Road signs alone make great story starters. Take turns finding an unusual sign and create a story about it. Imagination is a large part of literacy.

Then we come home, so what can we do to help our own literacy remain strong both secularly and spiritually and encourage the literacy of others?  Some things we can do are to volunteer to be a school aide for those with reading disabilities. We can participate in and promote literacy classes, learning centers, adult education programs. There is a wealth of opportunities available.

In general we can:  read both non-fiction and stories at home, with friends and in libraries; share a reading program with friends, neighbors and pen pals; encourage all to read newspapers, magazines, and books; support programs that deal effectively with literacy; and watch and get involved in literacy legislation.

One of the privileges of having some time where we can volunteer is we can do so much good and feel good about ourselves. Even if we have a little time, we can make a difference. There are many ways to help in public education. Without leaving your house you can: pray; give money to specific programs, classrooms or buildings; make reading pillows or blankets; educate yourself on funding sources, district policy and legal issues; write your members of Congress and state legislature; donate books for classroom libraries; donate winter clothing; call a teacher and ask for specific needs; and send letters to school staff thanking them for their work for students.

In the classroom, you can: tutor; read to students; help with specific programs and/or at book fairs, etc.; create bulletin boards; grade papers; chaperone field trips; be a mentor/substitute grandparent; visit classrooms; volunteer to write letters and emails and make phone calls; supervise recess; help with classroom decorations; adopt a classroom.

In the community, you can: join PTA, booster clubs, etc.; attend school board meetings; talk to kids; make eye contact with youth; speak positively about schools; teach parenting classes; mentor parents; provide before- and after-school care at minimal cost.

We are fortunate in Jasper County to have the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program that gives a multitude of  volunteer opportunities:  Help Engage a Reader Today; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Community Betterment; Income Tax Preparation; Jasper County Elderly Nutrition; Jasper County RIDES; Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge; Seniors Against Investment Fraud; Siren Reporters; and Visitation Program.  If you don’t know what these programs are — find out. You may not feel led to volunteer, but may know of someone who does. Engaging your mind and your efforts to help others, also keeps your mind active and your literacy up-to-date.

The list of what we can do is endless. We can: become a business mentor with the DECA club or local business club; become an agriculture mentor through your local FHA club at the schools; ask if there are any bus stops that could use an adult either every day or a specific day of the week; ask grade school and high school art teachers what supplies are on their wish list; support the music programs by keeping up-to-date on performance dates and needs.

Most schools have a website now and/or you can still contact the school directly. You can ask the athletic directors of the school what they have on their wish lists to accomplish. If you have a specialty, ask that subject’s teacher if there is a way you can contribute to a certain class. Think of ways where you could use those skills you’ve developed and help others. The RSVP has many needs where you can help make a positive impact on literacy. You may also commit your abilities to spiritual literacy. Any church will give you ideas, as will most religious institutions. Involvement keeps you mentally and spiritually healthy as well as leaving quality footprints for others to follow.  

Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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