"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable
that is spelled out is a spark." —Victor Hugo, Les
a basketball player who swishes the last five baskets in a row,
the Westshire Elementary School Everybody Wins! program is “on
fire”. Thanks to a noticeable increase in volunteer participation,
a record number of Westshire students are reading with mentors
each week. Currently, 15 reading pairs share an hour together
each Tuesday, with one more pair slated to start reading in February.
At the start of the program in September, 14 students expressed
interest in reading each week in Everybody Wins!
“Westshire students were overjoyed about Everybody Wins!
starting,” says Shawn Gonyaw, Westshire Elementary School
Principal and co-EW! school coordinator with Librarian Joyce Russell.
“It is great to see our fifth graders who were involved
last year ‘spreading’ their positive experiences and
recruiting other students.”
Fourteen students interested in being matched with a mentor posed
a challenge to school coordinators and returning reading mentors,
as only 10 students had read with mentors the previous year at
this small rural school. So during the program’s orientation
in September, a group of returning mentors put their heads together
to brainstorm creative ways to recruit new volunteers.
Ginny Marino and Lynn Roy, long-time Westshire EW! mentors, led
the recruitment efforts, bringing in a total of five new mentors.
“We knew we needed to find mentors for those four additional
students who wanted to read. That was our real motivation,”
says Lynn Roy, a librarian in nearby Vershire. “There aren’t
many businesses near Westshire, so we knew we need to reach out
to community members – retirees, grandparents and those
who work from home. We started asking specific people who might
have time available.”
Roy, whose husband John is also a reading mentor, enlisted the
help of another family member to communicate the need for four
more mentors. “My daughter helped spread the word to co-workers
at the Mountain School in Vershire who might have time available
to read,” she says. “Two new mentors resulted.”
Due to the tremendous volunteer response, reading pairs now read
in both the library and an additional classroom to accommodate
the extra space needed. And participating students are thrilled
with the program: "I like Everybody Wins! because my mentor
and I read a lot of true stories. We also talk about our weekends
and vacations,” says Katherine, a Westshire student. “Everybody
should participate in Everybody Wins! because the mentors teach
you to love reading."
Westshire’s EW! program is a result of the successful collaboration
between Everybody Wins! Vermont and the Upper Valley Business
and Education Partnership (UVBEP). UVBEP facilitates five EW!
programs in the Upper Valley, with nearly 100 mentors in Hartland,
Tunbridge and West Fairlee, VT, and Claremont and West Lebanon,
“This program has and continues to make a huge difference
in the lives of the Westshire students,” Gonyaw concludes.