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This community observation project reports on the activities of the local children’sreading club that seeks to enhance the lives of disadvantaged children by giving them access to books and other reading materials. The children’s book club provides these resources and organizes sessions with volunteers geared towards teaching English to the children through reading and writing activities.Although the children’s reading club is primarily designed as program aimed at teaching English through reading and writing, as the children become more confident in their reading and writing skills they are encouraged to apply their newly-acquired in other activities. Volunteers are allowed to design and implement complementary ideas around art, drama, music, and sports. These activities provide the children an opportunity to build their confidence by the practical application of the English language in real-life situations.
What was observed during the experience?
The sessions at the local children’s reading and writing club was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. I arrived along the volunteers who customarily come in before the children arrive so that they can make prior preparationsfor the activities of the day. As soon as the children arrived,I noticed that interactions between the children and the volunteers were warm, friendly and interactive, which made the children at ease with the learning process. The volunteers were keen on the learning requirements of the children, pausing to explain difficult aspects of the reading and writing exercises while rewarding effort and excellence, which gave a boost to the moral and confidence of the children. From conversations between the volunteers and the children,I learnt that the children were showing progress not only in the sessions provided by the reading and writing sessions but also in the children’s academic performance back in school.
Based on the Role theory,I was able to observe how behavior adheres not to the actor but to roles, in that, during the reading and writing sessions a set of expectations that defined duties and roles were assigned to the volunteers who assumed the role of teachers and to the children who assumed the role of students. Behavioral expectations shifted for the volunteers and the children being taught such that it matched respective roles depending on the activities being undertaken.
How did the experience affect you?
This experience of observing how volunteers help local disadvantaged children to improve and hone their English reading and writing skills while still having fun by engaging in other complementary activities affected me positively and inspired me to be a volunteer with children. The experience helped me to understand that challenges in society can be tackled when there is a willingness to address them among the members of the community in order to improve the situation. The experience further confirmed the notion that even difficult and challenging situations can be improved with collective participation, continuous support, and consistent application of best practices.
What are the needs of the population that you interacted with?
In accordance to the socio-linguistic theory, I understood that it is in early childhood that speech patterns are acquired. These speech patterns are then responsible for a student’s perception and capabilities for good performance in school later on. The population from which the disadvantaged children come from, have witnessed their children failand underperform in schools, a situation that diminishes their opportunities for advancing their education, which further reduces their potential for meaningful employment in the future. This holds the community back since only a few children excel in schools and get a chance to proceed to the highest levels of education available to them.The communityhas talented children with an outstanding capacity to learn and excel in their scholarly endeavors but their biggest challenge is that the children’s learning capacity is limited because they learn a ‘restricted code’ of speech whereas their middle class counterparts learn an ‘elaborated code’ of speech which plays out as an advantage in the classroom(Powell, 1997).
How can you help make a difference with this group?
To make a difference in this community of children and consequently in the respective communities that they are drawn from, one of the things I can do in my capacity as a volunteer is to spread the word about the program among my friends and other young people. This would be to encourage them to participate in the program either through an internship or through their volunteer placement program. I could very easily spread the word about this program by talking to my friends, classmates and other young people about it face to face and through social media by posting posts, pictures, and videos on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Another beneficial thing I could to make a difference in this program would be to collect interesting reading materials like books, comic books, and magazines from my friends, family, neighbors, and other well-wishers, which can then be donated to the program. This would increase the resources of the program’s library and perpetuate the reading culture among the participating children.
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