Taylor Burke Contributing Writer
Recently UMF faculty, students and community members participated in the UMF Read to ME event at W.G. Mallett School, where volunteers read to the elementary students as part of a state education initiative.
The Read to ME event is a state-wide challenge from the Department of Education that asks people to read to children for at least 15 minutes and post a picture or video of them reading with #ReadtoME in the caption to celebrate and spread a love of literacy to children across Maine.
Literacy Education Professor Kathryn Will was one of the primary organizers of the UMF Read to ME event at Mallett School. Once the volunteers arrived in the cafeteria, Will explained some logistics and how the volunteers would be split up amongst the students.
Shortly after, an announcement came over the intercom informing students that the guest readers were on their way to the classrooms. With that, the volunteers filed out the doors and scattered into the hallways.
Kaden Pendleton, a junior education major, read to a group of kindergarteners. He sat on a bench at the end of a hallway and students gathered around him with eager eyes. As he turned the pages, the kindergarteners were in awe of the illustrations displayed.
Pendleton is passionate about literacy and the connections between schools and their communities, which makes him an active supporter of the Read to ME event. “It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Everybody should read to children.”
When he heard about the need for volunteers for the event, he jumped on the opportunity. “Reading to children is so important,” he said. “They want to hear the stories that you have to tell them. Even if it’s a book they’ve heard before, it’s a different voice.”
Classrooms were buzzing with students eager to meet and listen to their guest readers. Principal Tracy Williams observed this as she circulated throughout the building. “The kids are really excited and attentive,” she said.
She sees the event as a positive literacy experience. “I think it’s good for kids to see other community members and college students and adults from out in the community who they see acting on reading and really enjoying it,” she said.
Williams helped organize Read to ME at the Mallett School, but attributes much of the leg work to Will, who sent out a call for readers throughout the community and created an online page where volunteers could sign up to attend. She looked at the page the night before the event and only had 14 volunteers. However, the next day she had 39 people coming in to volunteer. This made the organization a little tricky due to the quick logistic changes that needed to be made on the day of the event.
This is Will’s fourth year organizing the event. She hopes that students and volunteers find joy and delight in participating. Will explained that the moments students have with readers aren’t complex but have a positive impact. “You can make the difference in the life of a child in reading to them for 15 minutes,” she said.
One of Will’s favorite parts of the event is the connections that can be made between people and the community. She described an experience at the event when a teacher showed interest in having Will return to read to her class. “I love those moments where people have opportunities to connect with ways in which they can contribute to the community,” she said. “And that’s the whole point of Read to ME.”