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Reading Coaches for Kids program helps students improve their literacy skills

Posted at 6:35 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 23:54:17-05

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — If you love to read and enjoy helping children, there's an opportunity that you'll want to consider. The Reading Coaches for Kids program, through the Volunteer Center of Brown County, is celebrating 20 years of helping children improve their reading skills, and they're always looking for more volunteers to make a difference in a kid's life and learning.

For some students, meeting with volunteer Bill Orgeman is their favorite part of the school day.

"I like reading with him," said fourth grader Eli Bansemer.

"He's fun, funny, awesome. A really good reading teacher," added student Alejandra Lopez-Saldana.

They call their reading coach Mr. Bill. He volunteers six hours a week to provide one-on-one tutoring to MacArthur Elementary School fourth graders who need a little extra help.

"I've got something to look forward to, to get up for that I enjoy, and I know it's helping people," he explained.

The retiree joined the Volunteer Center of Brown County's tutoring program 11 years ago. They taught him tips and tricks to help children improve their reading.

"You're just there to help them when they stumble. Help them figure out how to sound out words, and then after that, figure out the comprehension piece. 'What did that mean? Have you heard of that word before? What other word sounds like that that you might know?'" explained Deb Johnson, Literacy and Volunteer Manager at the Volunteer Center.

The program serves over 450 students per year in Kindergarten through fifth grade. It currently has volunteers in five Brown County school districts and, according to Johnson, it's getting results.

"Last year, our stats showed that we had 84% of the kids who read with a reading coach at least four months improved their level by two."

Lopez-Saldana said it's helping her gain confidence.

"Starting to read harder books and harder books and starting to push myself like up."

Mr. Bill likes to make reading fun and educational.

"He might get out a map and show you where the story is taking place, so he's not just touching reading. He's doing other things as well with the kids too. Social studies. Science. So, it's pretty cool," said fourth grade teacher Roger Drumm.

Mr. Bill also explains the importance of literacy to the children he tutors.

"I try to compare. 'What would you be able to do if you couldn't read? Could you go to a restaurant and order some sandwiches? Can't read. How about your job application? Can't fill it out.' So, if you give them some lifetime examples of how important reading is then I think it clicks a little bit," he said with a smile.

While the students are making great strides in their reading skills, it's also about relationships.

Anderson said, "If they feel comfortable talking with that volunteer, and they know that they can trust that volunteer, they are going to be much more open to opening themselves up to something that's uncomfortable and reading out loud. That's something that's really important when you're learning to read is that reading aloud part, so that you hear parts of our English language. You're processing not only words but concepts."

Drumm added, "It's just a matter of having another contact and building that relationship and sometimes they just need to talk to somebody and Mr. Bill is there to do that too."

It's a role that Mr. Bill is happy to take on.

"I just go ahead and try to counsel them a little bit. If they ask me for advice, I give it to them."

While students are shocked to learn he doesn't get paid, Mr. Bill believes his rewards are priceless.

"Hugs. Papers. Thank you notes," he explained. "Christmastime or the end of the year, I get a card with all the names signed on and that's something I treasure."

They're just some of the many benefits that he hopes will inspire others to become a reading coach for kids.

"Give it a try. Give it a chance to see maybe you'll fall in love with it like I did."