And the reading begins…

As I finish reading, Jen is just beginning to read How Tia Lola Came To Stay.

To-Do Timeline:

Nov 14 – Nov 18 = Finish reading the book
Nov 19 + 20 = Prepare thought-provoking questions and discussion prompts for Jen to respond to, in order to test her reading comprehension
Nov 25 = Jen finishes reading the book and responds to my questions
Nov 26 – on = Analysis of the program and evaluation of volunteer involvement in DC/MD/VA area (based on flyers collected, site visits, likes on facebook page, etc.)

I cannot believe my project is already coming to a close. I plan to continue to help Jen for as long as she needs my assistance. What a wonderful opportunity.

Remember, there are many opportunities for you to get involved too! Refer back to my first blog post for more information on educational non-profits.


Calling all selfless volunteers!

I heard from Jamie, the teacher, once again this week. She indicated that the students have just ordered the books and will not received them for about a week. Once they have their books, it will be roughly 2-3 weeks until they finish the book.

In the meantime, I will be reading How Tia Lola Came to Stay. Once I am finished, I will write a letter to Jen with thought-provoking questions about the book to assess her level of comprehension. This conversation will continue until the end of the semester.

Now, it’s YOUR TURN: Here’s how you get involved.

1. Go to the In2Books Volunteer Homepage
2. Click the orange box that reads “Join Now!”
3. Follow steps one through three (takes approx. 5-10 minutes to fill out)
4. Eagerly await your pairing with a pen-pal across the country!

WIN! Exactly what I needed to hear. Now where to go from here…?

Just heard from the In2Books social media liaison – it appears that the program doesn’t have much on the social media front. Therefore, I’ll have to look into their needs, volunteer populations they want to reach out to, etc. Lets goooooo!

Hi Demi,

Your interest in helping us expand our social media presence has been forwarded to me. We would like to take better advantage of social media and welcome your initiative.
I look forward to hearing from you. Nina

Nina Zolt

How Tia Lola Came to Stay by Julia Alvarez

Jamie just contacted me via email. It turns out that Jen’s class will be reading “How Tia Lola Came to Stay” by Julia Alvarez. My next move will be to purchase/borrow this book and keep up with their class reading. I will then discuss the book with Jen and I will make sure she understands the important details and lessons.

According to an review, How Tia Lola Came to Stay is:

A story about a 10-year old boy experiencing major changes in his life – who is learning how to deal with these changes. Miguel has moved from NYC to a small town in Vermont because his parents are getting a divorce. His mother has a new job as a counselor at a college, and Miguel and his little sister, Juanita, have to start a new life with her.

It is hard for Miguel to be the only Latino in his class and he misses his father. He tries not to say too much about his feelings, as he doesn’t want to upset his mother. Even so, he is not thrilled when she tells him that her aunt, Tia Lola, is coming from the Dominican Republic to help take care of them while they get settled. She doesn’t speak English and Miguel and Juanita only speak a little Spanish.

Tia Lola arrives like a burst of sunshine on a cold, gray Vermont day. She brings good food, love, laughter, and a spice for life. She is not worried about fitting in and everyone loves her, though Miguel cannot help but be embarrassed by her at first. Through her colorful approach to life she helps Miguel and his family figure out how to cope with all the changes in their lives and comes up with a plan to help Miguel make friends.

How Tia Lola Came to Stay touches on subjects that are relevant to children today. Divorce, moving, family dynamics, learning to fit in are topics with which many children have to deal. Julia Alvarez does a nice job of sprinkling the dialogue with Spanish words and finding authentic reasons to translate them in the text. Tia Lola’s joyful way of living life comes through in the situations and language Alvarez uses. Miguel’s maturation through the book is gradual and believable as he works through his feelings about what has happened to his family. All in all this book is a good read.

In cahoots with Jen’s teacher, Jamie!

Jen’s teacher, Jamie, wrote her students’ pen-pals a welcome letter, which I thought was very nice! It reassured me that I had a real impact on this student’s life! Also, I thought it was neat that Jamie shared that she is serving as a pen-pal for another student in a Minnesota school system! She will be a great resource for me as the weeks go on. I can’t wait to get to know Jen and Jamie. I love the interpersonal In2Books interactions already! Here’s Jamie’s letter:

Hello Penpals. Thank you so much for volunteering to do this wonderful program. This is my first year doing it and I am very excited. I work in a school for children with learning differences (Dyslexia, AD/HD, etc.). We do not have grades and instruction is completely individualized. I have 4 students that are participating in this program. Bradley is 9, Jen is 13, Cooper is 13, and Matthew is 12. So eventhough some of them are older, they are on lower reading levels.

They loved reading the first letters you sent them. They are currently choosing their first book (fiction) and you will be notified about their choices today or tomorrow. If you could buy or check the book out in the next week that would be great. I am thinking it will probably take the students about a month to read their book. So try to have the book read by mid-November. I will have them write you when they are about half way through and then you can respond. Then they will write to you when the book is finished. Try to think of good thought provoking questions you can ask the students in your letters.

So I wanted to be on both sides of this program so I am actually a penpal with a student in Minnesota. I am doing exactly what you all are doing!

Let me know if you have questions about anything. I am so happy to be a part of this program. My students have had difficulty with reading in the past and I know this is going to help motivate them to read independently.

Thanks again! Jamie

My New Pen-pal, Jen!

Through In2Books, I recently enrolled to become a online pen-pal for a student somewhere in the US to help with their reading comprehension. As an e-mentor, I will communicate with my student via online letters through the In2Books website (and coordinate with the student’s teacher) to make sure the student is on track with their classroom reading assignments. Each week, I will discuss with the student to make sure they fully understand the reading.

Just yesterday, I was assigned a student! I am officially an e-penpal for the 2011-2012 school year! I was assigned a 13-year old student named Jen! Here is the letter she wrote to me:

Hi my name is Jen. I am 13 years old.
I go to Oakland school. I am from Ohio but I board at a school in Va. Where do you live?

I have six people in my family. My moms names is Laura, my dads name is Jerry,
my sister is Jana, and my brothers are Jesse and Jay. Do you have a big family?

I have two cats and two dogs. My sister has a horse. Do you have any pets?

My hobbies are writing, listening to music, and hanging out with my friends.
I also play soccer. What do you like to do for fun?

I am so excited to have you as my penpal. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Your pen pal,

Hello world!

There are dozens of educational non-profits nationwide and in the DC area that are in need of volunteers. They need your help!

Nationwide Organizations:
Heart of America= providing children in need with the tools to read, succeed and make a difference
In2Books = e-pal resource for students to help improve reading comprehension

Local Organizations:
Academy of Hope = offers low cost GED and computer resources for adults (children are not the only ones in need!)
BUILD = real-world entrepreneurial experience that empowers youth from under-resourced communities to excel in education, lead in their communities and succeed professionally
Byte Back = provides computer training to under-employed and unemployed adults, and at-risk youth
Commission on the Arts and Humanities = promotes cultural experiences as central to the education of children. Volunteers are needed for the commission’s programs and events
DC Learns = offers students and professionals access to literacy resources in the District and on the web
DC Web Women = supports women in technology and provides role models for young women and girls, which offers opportunities to teach, learn, network, and serve the DC community
Hands On DC = promotes better schools and brighter futures for District students and includes a one-day work-a-thon to improve conditions in the public schools and raise money for college scholarships
Higher Achievement = a year-round academic enrichment program that serves middle school students in the DC Region, by helping them improve their grades, test scores and overall academic behaviors, thereby positioning them for placement into area college preparatory high schools
Spanish Education Development Center = offers free or low-cost English-as-a-second-language (ESL), Spanish and computer classes
Washington Literacy Council = teaches adults who are illiterate or low-literate how to read

Please, please volunteer your time, no matter how small. Whether you help pass out flyers to educate the greater DC community about an upcoming event or open mail for an organization, the smallest contribution of your time will make a difference.

Like DoSomething in Schools (DC Chapter) on Facebook to see upcoming events and different ways to get involved.

Tune in next week to see which organizations I have decided to get involved with!