Washington Reading Corps helps kids

Washington Reading Corps volunteer Arlene Neubarth reads “Olivia” to Naval Avenue Elementary children in Bremerton. - Kate Whittle
Washington Reading Corps volunteer Arlene Neubarth reads “Olivia” to Naval Avenue Elementary children in Bremerton.
— image credit: Kate Whittle

“Let’s line up for Read Naturally,” Jeff Clark and Lizzy Myers call out as they help lead a class of first-graders down the hall to a computer lab at Naval Avenue Elementary in Bremerton.

Two boys at the end of the line loiter, giggling and burping out the alphabet.

Once all the students take their seats and put on headphones in the computer lab, it’s all business. They listen to the Read Naturally game as it displays short paragraphs and tests each student’s reading skills.

Devonsei Johnson, 7, watches as the screen highlights a story about astronauts.

“Astronauts are people with special skills,” he reads.

At another computer, Myers was starting up the program for 7-year-old Manalei Penitusi.

Penitusi said she likes reading, especially about wolves.

Clark and Myers are Americorps volunteers for the Washington Reading Corps program, which gives college graduates a boost to their resume while they help kids learn reading.

Clark worked as a children’s librarian in Philadelphia before joining Americorps.

“It’s a bit of a change from a library,” he said. “I really like working with the kids.”

Another Reading Corps volunteer, Amanda Macy of Puyallup, is certified as a teacher, but had trouble finding work. Reading with kindergartners reminds her why she wanted to go into education in the first place.

“I think kids here don’t have a lot of access to internet at home, reading is still an escape for them,” Macy said.

It’s Macy’s second year with Americorps, which pays a $1,000 monthly stipend to cover living expenses.

Americorps positions were originally created for recent high-school graduates needing job experience, but it’s increasingly become an option for college graduates unable to find work in their field, said Arlene Neubarth, another volunteer.

Neubarth has years of experience nannying in southern California and a degree in literature, but now she’s thinking about going back to school to become a teacher to expand her options.

Neubarth enjoys nannying, but she likes having more of an impact on more children through Reading Corps.

Naval Avenue Title I supervisor Laurie Prantil oversees the Reading Corps. Title I is a federal grant-funded position offered to schools with more than 50 percent of children on free or reduced lunch. Bremerton has about 60 percent of its student body on the lunch program.

Prantil said Reading Corps volunteers have been helping mentor students at Naval Avenue for at least seven years.

“They can help support those kids, give them more attention and more mentoring,” Prantil said.


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