News & Events

Tandem Trained Volunteers Spark Opportunity, Joy for Families

by | Nov 8, 2017

In August, we hosted an interactive Read Aloud training for Tandem volunteers at Google’s Community Space in San Francisco. Four Tandem volunteers completed the two-hour advanced training. The training was led by myself and fellow AmeriCorps VISTA member, Brittany Raji, and explored early childhood brain development topics, including the problem of the 30 Million Word Gap. This training also focused on sharing fun, interactive Read Aloud strategies that Tandem volunteers could use as they support early learning in their community.

Tandem volunteers hone their interactive reading skills by practicing with a group of other volunteers and Tandem staff members.

After reviewing why book-sharing is such an important activity for building young children’s early literacy and language skills, we transitioned into book-sharing techniques and practice. Program Supervisor Kelsey Gottschalk led an icebreaker that helped get our volunteers get in the mood to be silly and have some fun. Our Tandem volunteers then learned all about the interactive techniques Tandem staff members use during Read Alouds with larger groups of children to keep them engaged with the story. Using a page from Eric Carle’s 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo, we demonstrated using our Three Tips for Sharing Books. During the Read Aloud demonstration, we asked volunteers to brainstorm open-ended questions one might ask children while sharing the book, practice making fun animal sounds to bring the illustrations to life, and try their hand at making up a song to sing while sharing the book. We then paired up the volunteers so they could begin a round of one-on-one book-sharing practice.

Tandem volunteers get some one-on-one interactive Read Aloud practice.

The pairs were invited to take turns sharing a book together, with one person reading the book aloud while the other pretended to be a child. Later, the volunteers practiced their interactive Read Aloud skills in a group setting. As volunteers took turns reading aloud to the group, all other volunteers and Tandem staff members pretended to be a class of preschoolers. This fun, silly experience is a great way for volunteer readers to get a sense of what it’s like to share books with a large group of children. During storytime, groups of kids often ask unexpected questions, distract each other, and provide unexpected answers to the reader’s open-ended questions about the story. This is what makes sharing stories such a fun experience for both children and adults! Though it can be overwhelming when reading to a large group of children at first, practice makes perfect. Each of the four Tandem volunteers did an amazing job, and left the training excited about using their newly-honed skills at community events and other upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Singing songs and sparking joy at the Zendesk Family Night Out event.

Two of our trained Tandem volunteers have already joined us at recent community events! One volunteer joined us for the Food is Medicine event in Oakland. At this event, our Tandem staff and volunteer led a hands-on book-making activity for kids that was all about healthy eating habits. Another trained volunteer joined us for Family Night Out, hosted by Zendesk in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where she led interactive Read Alouds and literacy activities for kids while parents and family members attended a Tandem workshop. Working with excited volunteers makes all the difference. Together, we’re sparking joy and closing the opportunity gap for Bay Area families.

The author, Dwyn, with Tandem volunteer at the Food Is Medicine event in Oakland.



Join us for our next volunteer Read Aloud training on November 30th at the Google Community Space in San Francisco! Contact us for more details.

About the Author: Dwyn Asher

AmeriCorps VISTA Member

Dwyn joined the Tandem team in March 2017.  She was born and raised in the Bay Area and lives with Lysander, her cat, named after a character from her favorite Shakespeare play. When she’s not at work, Dwyn is most likely in the kitchen or planning her next adventure.

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