PreK Reading Corps impacts kids and interventionists alike

PreK Reading Corps Service Impacts Kids and Interventionists Alike

Guest writer, Briar Vasher, shares her experience serving with PreK Reading Corps and how her commitment to service changed her life in unexpected ways.

My name is Briar. I am an English major attending Grand Valley State University and a third-year AmeriCorps member serving with PreK Reading Corps. I support the entire preschool classroom by providing socio-emotional support and engaging with them in daily transitions to enrich down-time during the school day. I also do interventions with those who need it, and provide tools and support to improve family engagement with literacy.

Success in serving in a preschool classroom comes with the culmination of little triumphs. The small things are really what matters, like helping a child learn to write their name after months of struggling with the letter ‘s,’ or getting them excited to sit and read a book with you every day, or finally the moment it clicks for them what alliteration is. During my first service term, I had a student who chose not to speak. She could talk, but she had such bad separation problems with her mother that she chose not to talk to anyone for most of the year. Since she wouldn’t talk, her assessment scores were the lowest in the class. I added her to my caseload and began doing daily interventions with her. She wouldn’t talk, and her progress monitoring scores flatlined. My internal coach recommended dropping the child from my caseload because my time could be better used to serve another child. I disagreed. I added another child to my caseload, but I didn’t drop this girl. I found more time so that I could keep working with her daily. Finally, when I did the spring assessments with her, she spoke. What had me really jumping for joy was not only did she speak, she was completely proficient in all areas. It took months of work, but because I stuck with her she came out of her shell and she excelled. This type of experience is why I continue to serve with PreK Reading Corps.

I was initially inspired to serve with Reading Corps after a close friend told me about literacy rates in Michigan. I was absolutely devastated and thought that there must be something I could do to help. I’ve chosen to return because I can see the difference Reading Corps makes with the children I serve. I also returned for my own benefit because Reading Corps is the first thing I’ve ever done that I felt truly passionate about. I stuck with Reading Corps because I’ve committed to service and it has been unbelievably fulfilling.

My service has made me a different person. When I first began service I was shy, completely lacked confidence, and I would rarely ever see anything through. When I enrolled in service with Reading Corps I wasn’t certain if I would even serve a full term. I said I would, but I didn’t believe it. Halfway through my first year, my commitment was tested due to unexpected personal challenges. Because of these challenges, it was difficult to support myself on the living stipend, so I got a second job even though I was also attending evening classes. I barely slept, but I showed up for those kids and I was there on the last day of school celebrating with them. I committed to them and I saw it through. That alone changed everything. It’s much more than that, though. Serving takes more patience and persistence and dedication than I used to have, and the support I got from my coaches and program staff made me feel valued and gave me a sense of confidence I wouldn’t have believed possible.

When considering to serve with Michigan Education Corps, it’s important to know that this isn’t a job. It’s not something you commit to for the time being and then abandon when something higher-paying comes along. This is service. This is meaningful, difference making, life changing service. It is difficult, and can really test your patience, but if you are able to fully commit and give it your all, you will change the lives of the children you serve and in return it will change your life. This isn’t something where members are just another number. Reading Corps members are not replaceable. If a member leaves, there is nobody to fill their shoes and those kids won’t get served anymore. This is such an incredibly important program and every member makes a real difference.