BY JANIE ROSMAN
Kindergarteners in the East Ramapo Early Childhood Center will have a surprise next fall from the Tales for Tots Literacy Program.
“The single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children,” according to Becoming a Nation of Readers,a 1985 report by the Commission on Reading.
“We’re very excited about reaching out to the kindergarten classes,” organizer Marcia Scheer said. “We’ve been talking with East Ramapo for a while to see if we could get volunteers into their kindergarten classes.”
Scheer was working at Child Care Resources of Rockland, Inc. in 1991 when she learned about the Reach Out and Read program at Boston Children’s Hospital — volunteers read aloud to children at well-baby clinics while they were waiting with their parents to see the doctor. Kids between six months and five years also received a new, age-appropriate book from their doctor.
When the Rockland County Health Department suggested Scheer send volunteer readers to prenatal clinics in Nyack, “it was a great success. The clinics loved it and expanded the reading program to well-baby and WIC (women, infants and children) clinics throughout the county.”
In 2001 the program changed focus to include child care centers and school-age programs. Volunteers read aloud weekly to the children, tell stories, use puppet and other props and sing songs to engage the youngsters. Currently 22 volunteers participate in 15 different programs and join through referrals from organizations including National Council for Jewish Women, Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) members and Orangetown Jewish Center.
Tales for Tots volunteer Jean DeLongis loves reading to the kids at Nyack Little Schoolhouse and gets a kick from their responses. A Tales for Tots volunteer for more than 10 years, DeLongis reads to two groups — ages one to one-and-a-half and ages three to five — weekly at the daycare center.
“The little ones say, ‘One more, one more,’ and they get excited, which makes me happy,” she said. “The older children sometimes offer comment and listen intently.”
This spring volunteers began reading to the more than 700 children at the East Ramapo ECC with help from a Rockland 21C Family Resource Coordinator (FRC), who connected the program within the school.
Feedback was very positive during the last four weeks of school, when Tales for Tots volunteers read weekly to the half-day kindergarten classes. “The teachers loved having us there,” Scheer said of the 90-minute sessions.
Rockland 21C Administrator Anne Nissen credited the “many hard-working employees in the district who want to do the best for children” while facing many challenges.
DeLongis chooses books from libraries or buys them from thrift shops and may give to the class for reading later. “I usually stay an hour and a half, depending upon if they have an activity after I read,” she said.
Ten Tales for Tots volunteers committed to the East Ramapo EEC reading program next year. “Much research has been done about reading aloud to kids and putting books into their hands,” Scheer said. “Going to the public school seemed like the natural next step.”
CCRR coordinates the project, orients volunteers and maintains contact with them during the year. Twice-yearly breakfasts for volunteers share experiences and enhance their skills include a librarian discussing the latest children’s books and providing a list of books to purchase.
“It’s fun to meet other volunteers and hear about their experiences,” DeLongis said.
The program is looking for additional readers. For information contact Marcia Scheer at firstname.lastname@example.org or CCRR at 845-425-0009.