A group of Albuquerque volunteers are helping kids prepare for school, and it’s all starting with the turn of a page.
Most of the volunteers at Oasis Albuquerque are retired. A big part of their volunteer work is helping kids learn to read and raise literacy rates in the state.
For many, life after the workforce leaves them wondering, ‘what’s next?’ For some, that next step means donating their time to a good cause, like reading to kids.
“We’re trying to get them excited and reading,” said Vicki DeVigne, director of the Intergenerational Tutoring Program through Oasis Albuquerque.
Oasis is geared toward retirees. Offering up hundreds of activities, from history classes to painting to volunteer work, it’s a community-driven non-profit.
“It’s really a community. We have people who come here to learn more, to be entertained and to give back to the community,” said Kathleen Raskob, Executive Director of Oasis Albuquerque.
Over the years, hundreds have given back through area schools. Right now, around 350 volunteers are making a difference in 65 elementary schools across the Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Bernalillo school districts. In the future, they hope to expand to schools in Los Lunas and Belen.
Oasis says their fun approach to the program will make reading an exciting task in the classroom.
“The volunteers will go in and they’ll immediately share something to the effect of, ‘Your teacher thought we would have fun reading together. You’ll have the fun and I’ll do the reading,'” said DeVigne. “That immediately takes the pressure off of a student that makes them feel, ‘Ok, I’m not in trouble getting a tutor. This is going to be fun.'”
According to Oasis, the Intergenerational Tutoring Program is primarily focused on first through third-grade students, so when they hit fourth grade, they can focus on learning instead of learning to read.
“They’re not only learning to read but they’re excited about reading. See, there’s a difference. We can all learn to read and reading is important. But to share your joy in reading is really a little bit different,” said DeVigne. “Once they learn to read, it’s like that lightbulb goes off and the joy shows up, it’s incredible to see.”
Oasis Albuquerque is currently recruiting for volunteers to be trained in the fall. They hope to get around 125 volunteers by next school year. Reading mentors commit to spending one hour, one day a week to the program.