Volunteer Reading Time
As an intern with VolunQuest, I see how important learning English is for the survival of the local Isla Mujeres community. Although we teach English classes in the 3 primary public schools every weekday, I know that any added exposure to the English language outside of the classroom is extremely beneficial to the kids, and thus the community at large. For this reason, in addition to the daily classes provided, VolunQuest also offers a “reading time” where volunteers on the island can sign up and come to the schools to read to the kids and do activities with them in English during their lunch/recess break. We have several regular readers who come once or twice weekly to spend time with the kids (shout out to Sue, Therese, and Adrian!) and we are very thankful for their dedication to the kids! Even if the kids don’t understand every word of the story or activity, they are still making positive associations between English and learning/reading. This is so important because English can be very intimidating as a second language, so building confidence in the kids at an early stage and giving them the ability to not only recognize and use the English language, but to associate it with fun, is huge for their future success!
As I mentioned, there are several readers who come to see the kids on a regular basis. However, there are also people who sign up for a 1 or 2 time visit while they are on vacation on the island. Sometimes these people are only here for a few days, and they still decide to volunteer some of their vacation time to be with the kids! A few weeks ago, this was the case with a family of 4 from the U.S. (mom, dad, son, daughter) who blindly signed up to read at Cesar Mendoza (one of the primary public schools) for 1 of their 7 vacation days. They were eager, nervous, and excited when they showed up on Tuesday to read to the kids… only to soon find out that the school had a last minute schedule change which affected the lunch/recess hour, and thus affected the reading hour, so they would be unable to read. I spoke with the family to apologize for the inconvenience and explain that even VolunQuest was unaware of the schedule changes that day (Mexico can be a very unpredictable place ☺). I figured that they had allotted enough of their vacation time to just come to the school one day, and that they wouldn’t be able to return to the school… but I was wrong! They were really excited about the opportunity and asked if we could move some things around so that they could return in 2 days – we did just that! The family came back on Thursday and the Isla kids were so excited – they are used to having adults come to read during the reading time, but this time they got to interact with other kids their own age – and foreign ones at that! Even though they had no idea if there is a normal agenda for reading time, or what age/level the Isla kids would be, the family dove right in and made personal interactions with each of the students. They read books, played hangman, exchanged Spanish/English vocabulary – it was so much fun to observe! The time went quickly, but this family has no idea how much this interaction meant for the Isla kids – it was truly a special experience for all parties involved!