Since 2009, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana has offered a Real Men Read program to area schools. Volunteers impact approximately 6,300 students in 250 classrooms by reading approved books to 2nd- and 3rd-graders. It takes approximately 1 hour per month.
Last year, because of the pandemic limitations, 39 men stepped up to record stories which were later played in classrooms.
But it can’t be as easy as all that, can it? These are rabid second- and third-graders exploding with energy and they must be impossible to control, right?
There are some tricks to the process, as we learned from some veteran experts.
OK, so the Noble County Sheriff might have a little experience dealing with discipline, especially since kids love the uniform. He’s been reading at Albion elementary schools for the past three years.
“Most of the time I’ll take in pencils or stickers from the sheriff’s department and reward them for participating,” Weber said. “They are a little antsy so I’ll ask them questions and try to get them to participate as much as possible. I’ll ask them if they’ve ever had anything like what happens in the book happen to them. It’s a lot of fun going down there and talking to the kids.”
Pencils and stickers? When Wade worked at Kraft Foods in Kendallville, he used to stop in the shop and pick up a bag of caramels to pass out. Now that’s cheating!
“It was just a way to get the kids engaged,” Wade said. “I also took some extras for the ladies at the front desk.”
Now that’s really cheating! Also really smart!
“This gave the kids something different to look forward to. They knew as long as they sat there and asked good questions, I would always give them caramels at the end.
“I always tried to engage everybody, including the kids who were a little bit more reluctant to participate by asking if somebody saw the story a different way.”
Of course, Wade, 42, has five kids of his own, so he already knew most of the tricks.
Most of his students, Ternet says, are incredibly well-behaved, and he gives most of the credit to his teacher, Cherrita Tatnall. Even on the days when the kids are a little more rambunctious, he says they are still a lot of fun to read to.
“Kids have a very unique perspective to the world around them, and it’s a great way to remind myself to consider a variety (and sometimes, ludicrous) of possibility,” Ternet said. “It energizes me to be around them, and honestly, it’s a huge ego boost. When you walk into the classroom, you are a superstar, and it’s making their day something different from the `normal’ school routine so they love having you there.”
As Ternet said, it was always an event when someone different came to talk to classes when he was a kid, and now he gets to be that person for these kids.
“And in society that is constantly distracted by TV, movies, video games, phones and whatever else we’ve concocted to entertain ourselves, reading is pushed further and further down the list of activities,” he said. “It’s great to remind kids how fun and rewarding reading can be, and most importantly, it’s really good for kids to see men giving back to the community. This is a wonderful way for kids to see men engaging with kids and helping them find a love for reading.”
Ternet said it’s also not too often when he gets a standing ovation for arriving at his real job like he does at school.
Crilly has been part of RMR since it began, and he doesn’t have any plans of stopping. Asked what he enjoys the most about the experience, he said, “Seeing how excited the kids are when you arrive to read. They remember your name and really look forward to the time when we are there to read. They love to be able to keep the books and the joy they have in participating.”
He said the kids have never been a discipline problem.
“I make sure to tell them personal stories and ask them questions and use different voices when reading,” he said. “I also had my own kids guess the copyright date of the book, and so I tell that story to the students, and they love to try and guess the copyright date of the book.”
Like Crilly, he has also been part of RMR since 2009.
I only hope the kids get as much out of my participation as I do,” Campbell said. “I love to share my love of reading with the kids. I have lots of memories of their excitement while reading.”
Like all the most successful, RMR participants, he asks lots of questions about the books and the various topics they cover.
“Plus, I always try to tie the books into a personal experience I’ve had with the subject matter,” he said. “It helps to be 69 years old and have traveled all over the world. They always seem to be very interested in learning about the book and are always anxious to share a slice of their lives and how the book covers topics of their lives.”
All the RMR volunteers said they can’t wait to get back into the schools to see their students, hopefully in the fall. Plans are being made now to resume the program ASAP!
If you’d like to find out more about being involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana as a potential Big, volunteer or donor, call 260-456-1600 or go to bbbsnei.org.