SMART seeking volunteers to touch youngster through reading

Alex Paul

The bond between a caring adult and a student is truly priceless.

That’s how SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) coordinator Tami Moss describes her work.

Moss, who learned about the SMART program as a mother of a young child.

“I volunteered three years for the SMART program before I had the opportunity to become the coordinator for three schools,” Moss said. “Every day I witness the interaction between students and volunteers and am truly proud of the students’ accomplishments and consider it a privilege to know such committed people in the Sweet Home community.”

Although numerous persons volunteers to read to students one-half hour at a time each week, Moss says more volunteers are needed to help the program reach even more youngsters.

Currently, the program is operating at Hawthorne and Holley elementary schools.

Reading time at Holley school is Monday and Wednesday from 9-10 a.m. Reading times at Hawthorne school are Monday from 10:30 to 11:30 and 1-2:15 p.m. and Wednesday from 1-2:15 p.m.

In addition to the local schools, Moss also coordinates the SMART program at Lacomb.

“We need 15 more volunteers,” Moss said. “We have some wonderful volunteers, we just need more of them to feel the power of an hour spent with a youngster.”

SMART is geared toward students in grades kindergarten through third from low income communities.

Founded in 1992, SMART will serve 272 elementary schools this year and is available in all Oregon counties.

Since the program began, it has reached more than 77,000 students.

A special feature of the SMART program is that students are given two books each month to take home. There have been 1.2 million books donated to SMART students since the program’s inception.

Pastor Gary Hooley is a SMART volunteer and said, “SMART is a great opportunity. One gets to read children’s’ books again and spend time with kids. Encouraging children to discover joy in reading, how exciting! I hope others will join in this wonderful service.”

Bert Wright’s mother was his link to the SMART program.

“My mom volunteered for the program five years ago and asked me to assist her substitute and I very quickly became a regular participant. This program serves a vital function in helping our young people acquire an essential life skill. It has been a privilege to be a part of this excellent endeavor.”

Wright also praised the program’s staff and the other volunteers.

“Most of all, it has been personally rewarding to contribute to the delightful and inspiring children. I would like to encourage others to consider becoming a volunteer in this worthwhile program.”

Wilma Whitmore says that being a SMART volunteer “gives me such a sense of fulfillment in watching a child grow and develop over a year.”

She said the students change from being scared trying to read to doing well. She looks forward to the weekly hour she spends at the school.

Children come into the SMART reading room excited and eager to read, said Shelley Garrett. “It’s so rewarding to see their progress throughout the year. They are more than the kids we read to, they become our buddies.”

SMART is supported by the Oregon Children’s Foundation, founded in 1991 by former Governor Neal Goldschmidt.

To learn more about the SMART program, or to volunteer, contact Tami Moss at Hawthorne Elementary, 367-7167; Holley Elementary, 367-7163; or at home, 259-2074.