By Christian McKinney
For Blount Today
Smiling faces, laughing, and even cheering were the sights and sounds of the Rookie Readers Club as they celebrated the conclusion of the program this year at the Boys and Girls Club in Eagleton. Workers from the Boys and Girls Club, Leadership Blount and 14 student volunteers from Maryville College have been taking time to be a part of this reading series.
Between 25 and 30 children were participants in the program, now in its second year. Rookie Readers is geared to aid in literacy development for children. However, the Boys and Girls Club got a big push this year with a brand new sponsorship from Verizon Wireless.
In conjunction with the Verizon Wireless Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club received a grant of $5,000 to help fund the program. With this new support, leaders were able to put some funds from the grant toward crafts and food, but the majority of the amount was put into the books.
All the student volunteers are education majors under the direction of Dr. Alesia Orren, professor at Maryville College. In order to make this year’s program successful, Orren teamed up with Gary Honaker, director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Blount County.
This year, each child was able to take home a 13-book set put together by the organization. Honaker says that this year the books are not just for the program, “the kids actually get to keep the books.”
Students from Maryville College came and volunteered an hour for each week of the series. They covered one book per week to help encourage and retain good reading skills. The students also used the time to gain experience in literacy development as they progress towards their graduation from the teaching program at Maryville College. “It is really great,” says graduating senior Morgan Skyy. “The kids really enjoy it.”
As a part of the gathering, kids were treated to a smorgasbord of sandwiches, fruit, chicken nuggets, vegetable bites, chips and drinks, all paid for by the grant. And while the grant is helping the leaders, the kids are being taught reading skills each week of the series. In this program, repetition helps.
Near the close of the ceremony, all the Rookie Readers received a medal to commemorate the end of the program and as a reward for reading. This helped to get the children excited about reading as an enjoyable experience.
In the wake of the success of this second year in the program, Honaker says he would like to see even more become involved in the program because of the positive impact on education of future generations.