I write award-winning historical romance about pirates, privateers, smugglers and the occasional possum.
This is my second year volunteering with Reading Pals, a United Way program (http://bit.ly/15S1cfa) where I'm matched with a 2nd or 3rd grader who's not reading up to her or his level. Over the summer I participated at the local Boys & Girls Club while school was out. We spend an hour together reading, and when I'm satisfied the child has read and understood the book we're using, she gets to take it home.
This last part is very important. The children in the program are identified as living in a "book desert". They don't have reading materials of their own at home, or may not have someone in their home who can read with them.
My new Reading Pal, Tiffany, is an adorable second grader who's just as sweet as sweet tea. She does have a bad case of the fidgets when we're reading together, but I bring "fidget toys" (http://bit.ly/1f2vsXB) to help her focus. It breaks my heart though to see this child, who's bright and capable, struggling to read words like "green" and "street" and "can't".
We're still working through the first book, Clifford Sees America, but I'm hopeful Tiffany will master it by next week, take it home, and dive in to the next reading supplement. I always remind my Reading Pals that when they're not in the classroom, at home or out and about, to use their reading muscles and try to read everything they see--a cereal box, a can of beans, a billboard, a magazine. My goal for Tiffany is to bring her up to her grade level by the end of the year, and ideally, give her a love of reading for life.