Elementary – Real Men Read

Every fall for the last four years, our elementary schools have welcomed business professionals, police officers, Kiwanis members, everyday dads and grandfathers into their classrooms to read books to the students.

Real Men Read is a program sponsored through a United Way grant, which helps pay for training and materials for volunteer men to visit the classrooms and read to the students. Training is completed over lunch and prepares volunteers for what to expect and how to get started. The volunteers are equipped with books to read, prop cards, and ideas. “We want this to be their experience,” said Amy Haworth, Volunteer Coordinator for CARES and Read United.  “Some volunteers show up with their favorite books or their own props, it just depends on the volunteer and if they choose to branch out on their own.”

The goal – “Men share about their careers, they bless the students with their reading, explain how reading will be a skill they will use for the rest of their lives,” said Haworth. “Real Men Read has been a big win for everyone! Guys come into the program thinking they are donating their time for the kids, they don’t expect to get so much more out of the experience.”

The program has been a touching activity for all involved, including an unlikely, 92-year-old gentleman, who participated last year.

“This gentleman decided that he was probably would not be up to doing it another year. He was sitting at the Lerner Theatre and a girl he had read to was sitting a few seats down from him with her grandmother to watch the production of Annie. The student was so excited to see him that he decided he would have to come back,” said Haworth.

Sometimes the men stay with their classrooms for longer than the four week program. Last year, seven of the men who volunteered finished the four week program and made the decision to continue to read to the students for the remainder of the year.

Trevor Wendzonka, Marketing and PR Manager for the Elkhart Public Library, is just one of the many volunteers who spend time reading to the students. He has been participating since the inception of the program in 2012. “It’s a half-hour I look forward to each week on my schedule – it gets me out of the office and helps me see first-hand the impact we can have with kids,” said Wendzonka. “They enjoy the stories, but I’ve found they also look forward to getting to know me – what my job is and what my interests are.” Wendzonka also explains, “I really like hearing what our book each week means to them individually, and especially what they noticed in the words and pictures.”

The number of volunteers for Real Men Read grow year after year, mostly by word of mouth. In the first year, they were present in 25 classrooms. Today, Real Men Read visit all 14 elementary schools for first graders, and because they had more volunteers than they needed, they are also reading to second graders in nine of our schools. Eighty volunteers will read to the students in the 4-week program.

In the springtime, a mirrored program, “Spring into Reading” has women volunteers who will be reading to our Kindergarten classrooms.

To find out how you can get involved with Real Men Read, CARES, or Spring into Reading contact, Amy Haworth at amyhcares@gmail.com.

Amy is currently reading: “Sisters First” by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. She just started reading it and is really excited!

Trevor is currently reading: Three books – 1) “The Curse of Lono” by Hunter S. Thompson; 2) “Wilderness War” by Allan W. Eckert; 3) “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Real MEn Read