A group of iiNet staff has spent the past ten weeks working with students at Redcliffe Primary School, Perth to help improve their literacy skills.
Known as the Spark Reading Program, over the past three years our volunteers have made it their mission to gain the trust of the selected students and encourage them to participate more actively in their schooling.
The success of the program lies in the ability for our mentors to not only improve on a child’s reading skills, but also their confidence and social skills. iiNet customer service representative Levi Dobbie took the plunge in September and signed onto the Spark Reading Program.
With a background in education and working with children, Levi saw the program as a means to put his mentoring skills to good use within the company.
“It’s really very rewarding. There are some children we work with who don’t even speak English let alone be able to read it. So when one of the kids finishes a really hard word or gets through a difficult book, it’s a really big thing.”
But it’s not all just picking a book and a child and trying to combine the two. Our mentors spend time with the children to build trust from the very beginning. While Levi has learnt to distinguish between his role and that of the teacher – “there are lines we’re not allowed to cross, we can’t allow the children to go into too much detail about their home lives” – he has learnt the importance of building a relationship with the child before they are willing to learn.
“Some [of the students] are a little withdrawn about the whole thing generally. It’s just a matter of getting your book and allowing them to talk about what they want for a little while. But building up trust with a seven-year-old takes a total of 35 seconds anyway so it’s not difficult.”
The Spark Reading program is gradually attracting more and more staff as word is spreading. This year we doubled the amount of volunteers joining the initiative. The program has a vote of popularity simply because it’s just as rewarding for the mentors as it is for the children (and it allows you an hour out of the office each week!).
While the students involved are doing all sorts of lovely things like raising their achievements and aspirations, improving their employability and of course learning the tricky art of reading and writing, the mentors are provided with the opportunity to feel like they’re making a difference to the community and most of all to the life of a child.
The Spark program for 2010 wrapped up in December and will kick off again in February for the New Year. The Spark Reading Program goes hand in hand with another two initiatives iiNet has been taking on for the past few years – GOALS (Growing Opportunities And Learning Skills) and Aspirations, a nifty little partnership we have with Kelmscott School designed to coach year 11 students to enter the big wide world.
Find out more about what iiNet is doing in the community by visiting www.iinet.net.au/about/sponsorships/