Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm A Veteran Reader Program

"I'm a Veteran Reader"

Two years ago and many veteran interviews later, one of our veterans approached us about staying connected to our school. He said he wanted to have a reason to come back and visit. Out of that conversation, "I'm a Veteran Reader" was born.

We began with one first grade class and about 5 veteran volunteers. Beginning in January, 2010, the veterans began coming to school on Friday afternoons and became "reading buddies" with the first graders. They listened to the students read and passed out baseball-type "collector" cards after each student finished reading to them. The cards include a picture of the veteran, the war they served in, and the "I'm a Veteran Reader" logo. The cards have become quite the collector items for the students!

The last week of reading, students were rewarded with t-shirts that said "I'm a Veteran Reader 2." A couple of the students cried because they didn't want the veterans to leave. A couple of the veterans cried because THEY didn't want to leave!

I'm a Veteran Reader has been such a positive program that this year all 5 first grade classes are participating! This year our group of veteran readers averaged about 10-12. The teachers are so supportive of the veterans and vice versa. The program is a wonderful way for the students to practice their new reading skills, but it is also a great inter-generational opportunity.

This program has brought about several positive surprises along with it. Two of our veterans have therapy dogs, so they bring their dogs with them. Of course, the dogs are popular reading buddies! The dogs have collector cards as well that say "I'm a Veteran Listener." Patience (photo below) is deaf. Her veteran owner tells the students that she reads lips!
Another pleasant surprise has been that some of the veteran spouses have started to volunteer too. Their cards say, "I'm a Veteran Reader's Wife."
The program continues to grow and we are looking forward to next year.

Our hope at Bridge Creek is that this project will catch on and other schools will want to include veterans in their volunteer base and create their own "I'm a Veteran Reader" program. So please pass this idea on to your local school.

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