Program looking for readers to volunteer time with kids

<p>Sue Petersen reads with Kaidence Fine as part of the SMART program in 2010 at Lincoln Elementary School in Pendleton.</p>

People can make a difference in the life of a child by donating an hour each week.

SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) is seeking volunteers to work with children from pre-kindergarten through third grade.

“One hour per week is all it takes to make a lifetime of difference in a child’s life,” said Paula Seid, SMART northeast area program manager.

Volunteers are needed for the 2014-15 school year in Head Start sites in Pendleton, Hermiston, Echo, Irrigon and Boardman. Through the SMART program, children are assisted in building vital reading skills, which helps in developing a lifelong love of reading.

SMART is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide assistance so every child has an opportunity to read and is empowered to succeed. The program partners with Title I schools and Head Start organizations across the state and enlists community volunteers to read individually with students.

Each year, SMART helps thousands of school children in Oregon, providing one-on-one reading support. SMART reports studies have shown the program has a lasting impact on its participants. The data indicates fifth grade students who previously participated in SMART are 60 percent more likely to meet state reading benchmarks than students who haven’t participated.

And volunteers are the backbone of the SMART program. More volunteers, Seid said, means the program can reach even more children who

are at risk of falling

behind. In addition to individual reading support,

the program provides valuable adult mentorship and books for its participants.

“It would literally be impossible for SMART to provide critical reading support for Oregon’s children without our dedicated volunteers,” Seid said.

Since 1992, SMART has grown to become the state’s largest volunteer literacy program. It has served more than 160,000 children with the help of 108,000 volunteers. Also, children in the program receive 14 new books during the school year to keep and read with their families. Through the program, more than 2 million books have been distributed.

People interested in the SMART program who are unable to commit an hour a week can still help. Donations are accepted for the program, which are tax-deductible.

For more information, contact Seid at 971-634-1614, pseid@getsmartoregon.org or visit www.getSMARToregon.org.

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Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.

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