I exited the building and walked towards my car. My right hand red and throbbing from the day’s repeated blunt-force trauma. My head pounded from the loud noise, the constant chatter, and the overall chaos. My heart raced a mile-a-minute from the exhilaration and the excitement. The corners of my mouth were sore from one hour of constant smiling. The building I exited was Adams Elementary and I had just completed my first reading for Real Men Read. I had just spent an hour with my friends in Mrs. Craig’s second grade class.
Real Men Read is a United Way initiative that was created to close the reading gap that exists among the second, third, and fourth grade students in our local city schools. Male readers, or “Real Men”, enter classrooms all over our area once a month to read a book with a school classroom. The hope is to show all students, especially young boys, that reading is important and that reading is cool. It is a program that I have absolutely fallen in love with over the last five years. It is a program that changes the lives of children. Here is how:
1. Real Men Read puts books in the hands of children. It expands home libraries for those who need it. More books at home means more opportunities to read, be exposed to a plethora of words, stretch the boundaries of imagination, and improve the skills and capabilities needed to be a successful reader. Giving a child a book is giving a child a new opportunity for growth. The RMR program gives the students a new book to take home after each reading.
2. Real Men Read shows our urban students that we, as community, care. We can engage them, inspire them, and encourage them. Unfortunately, there are some children that do not get these things at home. Parents are busy and life is hectic. For one hour a month, I can show that I care. Investing that hour makes a lasting impression. Trust me, it does.
3. The Real Men Read program give students something to look forward to. Many of the children who attend our city schools live in poverty and face challenges far greater than yours or mine. Life is difficult. Every day is a challenge. These students need positive. Each reading session becomes an event. I walked into the classroom this week (first time meeting this group of second graders) to oooooohs and ahhhhhs, fist-pumps and high-fives, and a few hugs. Did I mention that I had never met these kids before? They had prepared for my arrival by writing short papers about themselves and drawing pictures for me. They had visited our blog and had many questions. Interesting questions I might add. When our time was up, it was obvious that they were disappointed. This is evidence of impact.
4. Real Men Read helps kids learn by exposing them to great books. Over the years I have read books about historical figures, the civil rights movement, different cultures, and books about self-confidence and self-discovery. This week’s book was “The Two Bobbies”, a story about Hurricane Katrina, survival, and friendship. A story with a great lesson. This year our book, “Linnie Mae’s New Friends”, was selected as a program book for 4th grade. We are excited about that opportunity to expose children to a book with real life lessons and meaning.
I had a great time in Mrs. Craig’s classroom this week. The children really made me feel special. I know that my new friends are going to read this blog in class. I want to thank them for the awesome pictures and essays that they wrote. I really enjoyed reading them. I also want them to know that I cannot wait for my next visit. I want you to behave, listen to Mrs. Craig, and read, read, read until we meet again.
If you can read and have one hour a month to give, you too can make a difference in the lives of children. The children need you. Our teachers need you. They cannot educate our children by themselves. They need people like you and I who are willing to roll up our sleeves and get involved. Teachers deserve our support. They are so passionate and committed to teaching our young people. As a family, we volunteer every once in a while and people give us kudos and compliment our actions. Teachers make a personal commitment to teach 25-30 kids each and every day and often do it behind the scenes. They deserve the accolades, the recognition, and the acknowledgement. Not us. They are the true heroes.
Find a school near you and get involved. Volunteer to read a book to group of second graders. You, too, will enjoy the high-fives, hugs, and great stories.