NEW ELLENTON — After a long career in education in Ohio and now retirement at Cedar Creek subdivision in Aiken, Myra Toomajian has thoroughly enjoyed reading to kindergarten children at nearby Greendale Elementary School.
In recent months, she has found a new project at the school – working with students directly to help them improve their reading skills.
And Toomajian is not alone. As many as 20 other women from the Cedar Creek Ladies' Club are working with Principal Sonya Colvin and reading interventionist Loretta Childress in a formal, research-based literacy intervention system used for grades K-3.
“Many of us have an education background and have in common a love of children that brings us to the school,” said Toomajian. “I can't wait to come read with them. It's not 'working' with them. We have been supplied with everything, and they made it easy for us.”
A former classroom teacher, Childress calls her current role “the best job in the world” – seeing struggling readers emerge to grade level or higher.
The Leveled Literacy Intervention program, developed by publishing company Fountas and Pinnell, is intended to fit seamlessly into the system.
The program helps make sure that books are at the right level for children through a gradual process, Childress said.
“The books are right there in the classrooms,” she said. “The lessons are very scripted, but flexible to tailor to the children's needs. This is such a good fit with the volunteers, giving children supplemental materials. The teachers love to have the volunteers.”
“I don't know if anyone else has a group of volunteers like this,” Colvin said. “Without them, how could we do this? They're always here.”
Public Education Partners recently presented one of its monthly school grants to Greendale, providing $600 for additional material the volunteers can use.
Twelve of the volunteers work with as many as 32 students every week, Childress said.
The efforts of the teachers and volunteers may change the children's educational path, Childress said. Toomajian began her career in an elementary school 46 years ago. Reading is not an easy subject to teach, and she has been impressed by what she has seen at Greendale.
“I have my own grandchildren, but these students are all my grandchildren, too,” she said. “What better rewards than getting hugs from my children.”