The benefit of an extra pair of hands is overwhelming, but the benefit of an extra pair of ears is unparalleled. Adult volunteers and paraprofessionals are wonderful pawns in the road to student success in reading. The opportunity to read aloud, and practice strategies for an avid listener, is precisely what a growing reader needs (Canter & Winberry, 2001).
Teachers who send home independent reading material in book bags can definitely capitalize on the extra set of ears. Often students take these book bags home, read them independently, but never get a chance to get feedback on their successful reading. This is where the other adults can remedy the issue.
First, students are assigned a level range, and are able to choose a few books to take home to read. Once they have read them, they can return their books for new ones. Most of the time, teachers will require a summary or verbal retelling before the great swapping of the books. Fortunately, a volunteer or paraprofessional can listen to the final reading, after practicing at home, and give them the praise and feedback they deserve. Once the reading is complete, the adult can listen to the retell, and help the student choose new books by determining whether the previous selections were too hard, easy, or just right.
There is a key to the successful implementation of this strategy; the adult must be trained to listen for good fluency noting prosody, word recognition, and reading rate (Rasinski, 2003). Also listening for students to exhibit good retells containing story elements, use of character names, and proper sequence. Also, the adults need to provide descriptive feedback on the reading. Knowing students have practiced and the books are on their level, all feedback should be praise, and noting what went well (Canter & Winberry, 2001).
It is imperative that adults know they will receive training, and are an asset the literacy classroom to alleviate anxiety about volunteering, and realize their much needed presence. Organization is an integral part of keeping volunteers efficient and, of course, coming back. Not all teachers are blessed with paraprofessionals, so it is important to utilize the support resources that exist in the homes of students (Canter & Winberry, 2001).
Canter, L. & Winberry, K. (Directors). (2002) Programs 6: Working with Parents: Teacher Interview. [Motion Picture]. In C. Arnold (Producer), Planning and managing the literacy classroom. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc.
Rasinski, T. (2003). The Fluent Reader. New York: Scholastic.