My Experience Volunteering with Behind the Book
by BtB Intern Dionne Crick
Growing up with two wonderful parents who are both so passionate about learning and reading was the start of my love affair with books. To have had the privilege of volunteering with an organization that encourages a love of reading is phenomenal. I’m able to get that warm, fuzzy feeling as I give back as a volunteer by promoting child literacy in NYC. Even more so from volunteering in the classroom!
This is my story of making a small impact in changing children’s lives through BtB.
What I found the most interesting about volunteering with Behind the Book in a school was that ALL of the pupils were so attentive. Although there must have been some amongst them who were just like I was at school…easily distracted!
Even though I was a very engaged learner as a child, I unfortunately also had a very short attention span. Unintentionally, I regularly drifted off for periods of time during class and I often didn’t pick up on the instructions the teachers gave out. What’s more, I was always terrible at listening when being talked at, rather than in a conversation.
Luckily, I had two great parents who loved learning, education, and especially books. All of the gifts I received tended to impart knowledge in some way, such as paperbacks or interactive learning games. So despite my flawed concentration, I still always received A’s because of my learning-centric household. I supplemented my learning by teaching myself through books and two-way conversations with knowledgeable people. I’ve learned from experience that every child’s learning style is different.
When I saw the attentive students in the BtB classroom, coupled with my knowledge of the easily distracted student, I fairly quickly came to the conclusion that the diversity in BtB’s lesson plans was the reason. The students WANTED to learn what they were teaching.
The two-way, collaborative effort between the students, teachers, volunteers, and experts increased their engagement. Plus it was clear that asking the students to use their creativity to showcase their understanding of the book made them excited. “This is great you are so eager, but I’ve told you already to stop working on this now and listen to me!” I heard the teacher say. They didn’t want to stop the Behind the Book lesson!
This is not to say that in the BtB program the students were story writing the entire time. The students learn writing, illustrating and publishing fundamentals too. Surprisingly, the kids were just as engaged during the less creative part of the program, perhaps because they understand the end result is worth it…they get to create something of their own—their very own published book!
For example, the students in my classroom when tested remembered all of the theory in book writing, such as character arcs, structure, and plot taught in their previous BtB lesson. They were also heavily engaged in researching the background of their characters so that their final book would be authentic. “We need to ensure we get all of the facts from you about living in the United Kingdom, as our character in our book is from there”, said one pupil to me, as they were all meticulously interviewing me regarding why I moved from the UK and the differences between the way of life there from their own. All the kids were eager to learn every step of the way.
I had an opportunity to inspire children…hopefully they will be thankful one day for being inspired to love reading for life and they’ll be the next people spreading their passion for books.
If you are also interested in volunteering to inspire NYC children become engaged readers, sign up here.
Dionne Crick is a business school graduate from London with ten years of marketing experience at top international firms. She is an avid writer, a wellness enthusiast, and volunteers for nonprofits who promote health, creative writing, and literacy.