In the six years that Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN has been running the Reading Buddies program we have had 200 volunteers from our region support local schools via the program. The program finds volunteers who listen to children read in a local school for one hour a day, for one or more days a week. The volunteers provide an extra layer of support for our schools and children. But why do people volunteer with the Reading Buddies program?
The program has attracted volunteers from a broad cross-section of our community. We have had:
- A student teacher, studying an online teaching course, who wanted to get some experience in a school
- A year 12 student who volunteered during school hours at times when she had no scheduled classes
- Grandparents of students in the school
- Grandparents whose grandchildren live interstate, who find that a Reading Buddies fills the gap that they experience by being isolated from their grandchildren
- Parents of students in the school
- New arrivals in town who want to make connections with a local community
- Employees who are able to negotiate flexible work arrangements with their employer to be able to volunteer at a set time during working hours
- Professionals such as speech pathologists, social workers and occupational therapists who volunteer as part of their employer’s community education program
- Retirees who love reading and the interaction with young children
- Secondary students in alternative programs who have been at risk of disengaging from education
- People who have been in part-time work or unemployed and have wanted to do something useful while they are seeking work
- Migrants with higher education backgrounds, for whom English is their second language, who have wanted to listen to children read to improve their own language pronunciation.
Volunteering clearly has many benefits for the volunteers. From the list above, we can identify that volunteering:
- Provides opportunities to gain experience
- Fills an emotional gap
- Makes connections with the community
- Gives satisfaction
- Provides community education opportunities
- Is a recreational outlet
- Gives a sense of purpose
- Assists with the volunteer’s personal development.
Volunteers usually have a genuine desire to want to make a difference and to contribute to the well-being of our society but an additional key driving factor is what volunteers gain from the experience.
Gaining something from our efforts is a strong motivator to undertake a task. We call it ‘job satisfaction’. We are more inclined to take on a task if we gain satisfaction from it.
Some tasks provide satisfaction from undertaking the task itself, while other tasks are endured for the sake of the end result. One might wash the car, not for the pleasure of the task, but for the satisfaction of having a clean car.
Our Reading Buddies volunteers report that they not only gain satisfaction from the end result, but they actually enjoy the experience of interacting with the children while listening to them read.
This is a win-win-win situation.
The volunteer enjoys the task – win!
The volunteer gains satisfaction from observing the child’s improved reading – win!
The child receives support to develop the vital skill of reading – win!