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Reading Partners Thanks Volunteers As Literacy Program Grows In Stamford

Amy Meer and Jennifer Grant enjoy a breakfast to honor volunteers of Reading Partners in Stamford Wednesday morning at the Jewish Community Center. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky
Several volunteers enjoyed a breakfast recognizing their efforts at Reading Partners in Stamford Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

STAMFORD, Conn. — Stamford’s Reading Partners, a program that places volunteers in schools to help students learn to read, is on the rise. And its annual breakfast held Wednesday was just one small indication of its growth.

“I think this is the largest gathering of people we’ve ever had for our year-end event,” Director of Reading Partners Marlyn Agatstein told those gathered for the event. She said nearly 80 volunteers were in attendance.

The program has grown from 13 volunteers in two schools in 1999 to more than 125 volunteers in 13 locations in 2016. And the program continues to grow.

Agatstein said the program already has interest for 10 new parent or grandparent volunteers who want to help students at Stamford’s “New School” at Strawberry Hill.

Volunteers work one-on-one with children in kindergarten through third grade in the Stamford Public Schools and beyond. Each volunteer devotes at least one hour a week during the school year, spending a half-hour with two children who need help with reading.

Marge Pavlov, a volunteer with the program, said she has seen marked improvement with her students. When she begins reading with some kindergartners, they don’t even know the alphabet.

Pavlov then gets to witness the amazing moment when they are truly able to read on their own for the first time.

“They get so excited when try and read that their first word, and their eyes just light up,” Pavlov said in an interview after the event. “That’s what keeps me going — the excitement.”

Pavlov said she chooses books to read from a “book box” in the room with input from the teachers. She said one of her students’ favorite book is a Dr. Seuss classic.

“Of course they all love ‘Green Eggs and Ham’,” Pavlov said. “That’s every child’s favorite book.”

Volunteers include retirees, part-time employees, full-time employees with flexible hours, students and at-home parents. No teaching experience is necessary, according to the organization.

The program is also flexible with locations. “You can chose the school that you’re closest to,” Pavlov said.

The program sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien. For more information on the reading volunteer program or to find out how to sign up to volunteer, visit its website here.

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