Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Natalie Shepherd, Readign to Kids Intern

On my last day as an intern, I can look back on my summer with Reading to Kids as a fulfilling and rewarding experience. I was able to do a lot of work behind the scenes, in the office, as well as more hands on work at the schools. Both arenas helped me learn a lot from my first internship with a non-profit organization.

Like any internship, my work in the office mostly consisted of what everyone else wanted to avoid – counting, spreadsheets, organizing, etc. While this sort of work would normally get old very fast, I found that I didn’t quite feel this way at Reading to Kids. I think the knowledge of the greater cause that Reading to Kids works towards made monotonous work feel more important and worth while. So, while plugging numbers into yet another excel spread sheet, keeping in mind all the children that this organization so positively affects, greatly deterred my instinct to complain, and instead made me feel like I was part of something special. 

Though my hands-on experience was pretty much wholly excluded to Reading Clubs, which were amazing experiences in themselves, I was also able to serve as a teacher’s aid once at White Elementary. My day as a teacher’s aid was unquestionably my favorite day of interning. I was assigned to a fourth grade class, and my whole day was dedicated towards administering timed readings to the children one by one. I would set a timer for one minute, and the child would read as much as they could within that time, and I would underline any words that they could not read or could not comprehend. It was explained to me that these exercises help determine if the children are reading at the appropriate grade level, and, given that many of them come from non-English speaking homes, also determine their fluency. 

While many of the children read perfectly well, it was very eye opening to see how far behind so many other children were – I remember one child didn’t understand the concept of vowels. After I did these exercises, I pulled some of the worst readers out of class for a more extensive exercise. For about an hour I was able to work with the child who did not understand vowels, and had a very hard time comprehending what he read. While I was technically only asked to evaluate him, another teacher had told me to go ahead and see how quick the child might pick up things I tried to teach him. It was such a great feeling to watch as the child began to understand concepts and strategies that before had confused him. It was an even better feeling to witness how excited he was about his progress. The whole experience helped me to realize how much I would like to work more directly with children in the future. 

On a whole, my time with Reading to Kids did not only serve as something to place on a future resume, but it served as an experience that helped me get a better idea of what it is I want to do in the world. It is a remarkable organization and I am very happy I was able to be a part of it.