Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Halloween Stand-in

After my one hour of training to read to children in a homeless shelter, I was supposed to observe a “live” reading session before my group of three women have our first official session. I also wanted to check out the logistics of commuting to and from Anacostia and make sure I felt safe.

From my house it took me exactly 20 minutes in rush hour to get to the shelter. I parked in front of a large brick building that could have been anyone’s large house or small apartment building. It looked just like the other structures on the quiet street and there was plenty of space to part right in front of the building. Ironically it is located just 5 blocks from where my parents lived when they were newlyweds in 1942.

As I waited around for the assigned volunteers to show up, I noticed that the building seemed clean and attractive. The room used for the reading sessions has comfortable couches, a large TV, and tables where the children can do crafts and have a snack.

It turned out to be a good thing I came because one of the volunteers was a no-show. (The Reading Connection's policy is that there must be two volunteers or else the session is cancelled.) The other man had brought books on Halloween and asked if I wanted to read with him. As I watched the children come in, I realized this was going to be no different than reading bed-time stories to my children – there were just more of them.

The 4 children ranged in age from 4 to 9, one little girl and three boys. The girl quickly found my lap and as she listened to the stories checked out my earrings and necklace. She seemed not to even notice that our skin was different color.

One of my stories contained a collection of sounds that grew longer with each page. A little boy could reproduce them all in order by the end of the book. He was the same one who said repeatedly, “I’m not scared of anything.”

The other volunteer had brought paper plates, scissors, and crayons so that the children could make masks as their activity. He cut out eye holes and taped a pencil onto the back of each finished mask and they went around scaring each other for the rest of the hour. It obviously doesn’t take much to amuse these children.

I can’t wait to plan our first session, which will take place on November 1. We need to come up with a theme, some books to read, and an activity. By the time you read several books and do an activity, the hour is over. It’s really not a long time.

I was so impressed with the fact that these children were well-mannered, dressed in clean clothes, and receptive to whatever we threw their way.

I keep coming up with so many ideas of what I would like to do with them, telling myself that we get just one hour a month and the participants will undoubtedly change over time. This was just a reminder of how much I have missed my interaction with families who need a little extra help.

I welcome any suggestions you might have of themes, books, and activities!


Blogger Ruth D~ said...

These kids must have stayed in your mind long after the reading session. I'm glad things didn't need to be cancelled. What a nice thing to do--share time and love.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

RuthD -- Yes, I just found a tiny piece of candy in my pocket that the little girl had given me. She made me fell so welcome in her temporary home.

11:24 PM  
Blogger riseoutofme said...

It really is true.

We get so many rewards for giving of ourselves rather than taking.

Especially where children are concerned.

4:17 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I should have read this before emailing... I feel so much more prepared! Sounds like a great night.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Aren't kids neat to have in your life?! I used to do a friendship theme in Nov. because of Veterans Day and there are tons of little books about friends.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

The last fairy tale I had any success with was The Mouse Princess. It is also available as a book. I think the story is simple and tells well.

12:00 AM  

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