The Magic of Reading

Help second-graders develop a ­lifelong love of the printed word

STAIR volunteer Kevin Hurley tutors at Eastport Community Center.
       When did you learn to read?
       That lifelong magic happens very young, at five or six. Young as it is, seven may be too late. The high school dropout rate for kids who haven’t learned to read at grade level by the third grade is 40 percent higher than for those who do.
That’s why Linda Barbour, executive director of Start the Adventure in Reading, and Anne Arundel County site coordinators Joanne Ward and Kit Gibson organize 150 volunteer tutors who devote a couple after-school hours each week to reading and playing word games with second graders.
       STAIR provides healthy snacks for the children and lesson plans and materials for the volunteers. There are also celebrations throughout the year, and children get books and workbooks to keep at home. Last year, first-graders through middle-schoolers joined a one-week summer theater camp with the Robinwood Community Center. They read a play a day, worked on the camp newsletter and banners and finally performed for parents.
       This year, 10 schools in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County have STAIR programs involving 74 children, with more schools on the waiting list. More volunteers — plus money — can make that happen.
      You don’t need to be a teacher to volunteer with the program. You do need to love children and reading.
     “A lot of children would really benefit from that exposure to people who love reading.
      “In the first and second grades, you learn to read,” Barbour says. After that, you read to learn.”
       Lend a hand. This year’s program begins in February. Volunteer or donate at stairannapolis.org.