By Keely McConomy Contributing Writer
The Read To Maine Challenge is taking UMF by storm by preparing UMF Education majors for their futures and helping younger kids learn the power of literacy. The statewide program is a challenge to prove that reading to a young kid for 15 minutes can change their lives in big ways.
During the month of February, everyone in the state of Maine is challenged to read to kids and post on social media to raise awareness of the importance of literacy. Read To Maine is benefitting both the children and college students, especially at UMF, known for its education program.
Kathryn Will-Dubyak, a professor and a UMF representative with the Department of Education, has made this into a month-long activity at W.G. Mallett School in downtown Farmington.
“I think it’s a real strength of UMF, how embedded we are in the community,” said Will-Dubyak. “I’m trying to build outreach with our campus,” she said.
At Mallett School last year, Read to Maine was only a day-long activity with many adult volunteers from UMF and the community reading to groups of kids. This year, Will-Dubyak has now introduced the Super Beaver Readers, a UMF student, typically an education major, who goes to Mallett School once a week to read to a group of second graders, as well as other guest readers. The volunteer will read chaperbooks to the group during lunch to challenge the kids. The guest readers can also have groups that include kindergarteners and first graders.
Will-Dubyak stressed the importance of having younger kids seeing their older peers being involved with reading instead of just seeing their teachers or parents.
“The Mallett children get to see that other people besides their teachers value literature, value reading,” Will-Dubyak said.
Tracy Williams, the principle of Mallett School, is completely on board with the Read to Maine challenge because of how beneficial it is for the children to “See people around them reading and enjoying reading.”
Emily Beaudoin, a first grade teacher at Mallett, notices how much it improves her students. “[First graders] are able to listen to a fluent reader, expand their vocabulary, as well as work on their comprehension skills,” Beaudoin said.
Christina Kouros, a senior and Education major at UMF, just started getting involved in the program this year as a Super Beaver Reader. Kouros loves being active in the program to help the kids, “It gets you in the classroom and you get to have more experience being around children.”
Kouros enjoys building relationships with the children at Mallett and considers this as an opportunity to have real hands-on experience with children before she graduates UMF.
Will-Dubyak wants to become even more involved with the Read to Maine Challenge and grow it as much as she can.
“It’s really about the joy of reading,” she said.