Doing Good, Feeling Better: Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering

There’s no question that volunteering as a Behind the Book classroom coach is productive for building students’ literacy skills and inspiring motivated readers. But did you know that while you’re giving to the community, you’re also giving to yourself? Research shows that any type of volunteering has positive effects on emotional and physical health.Serving the community releases dopamine in the brain, reports AARP. That creates the “Happiness Effect,” that same sense of well-being that follows a good gym session. When you engage with students in the classroom or on a field trip, the increased physical and mental activity lowers your risk of depression, reduces stress, and bolsters self-confidence.

A study by Johns Hopkins University revealed that older adults who volunteer, especially as tutors to young people, were able to delay—even reverse—declining brain function. Medical imaging showed improvements in the regions that support cognitive abilities critical to daily planning and organizing.

While any social interaction can help forestall Alzheimer’s disease, volunteering with our enthusiastic and creative Pre-K-to-12th graders is a rewarding way to improve the brain elasticity the devastating condition often breaks down.

The amount of time you give also makes a difference. Volunteering more than 100 hours annually would not only rocket you to the top of our Super Vol List. It could also result in greater longevity, reduced illness, and improved health overall.

There are social benefits, too. You’ll form bonds with other volunteers, who represent a variety of ages, professions, and backgrounds, and get to know our program coordinators, teachers, and authors.

Behind the Book volunteers also develop new skills and experience. Working with students and staff, they’ve learned about everything from African-American artists, to civil rights law, to how pigeons breed. Some even burn calories at our annual 5K fundraising Run/Walk.Volunteering is its own reward, but it’s great to know the advantages go both ways. If you haven’t, join our team to learn when new programs are scheduled by completing our brief questionnaire. Start reaping all the benefits of helping improve literacy skills in New York City public schools.

By Emily Rosenberg, Volunteer Coordinator