Cohousing Member Russell Blogs About Volunteering

Remember “The Cat in the Hat,” by Dr. Seuss? I have had the joy of sharing that story, among many others, with a bunch of first- and second- graders over the past few months. 

When I moved to Eugene to join the Oakleigh Meadow Cohousing community, one of the things I really wanted to do was volunteer to read with kids in the local schools. I found fellow readers within the Oakleigh Meadow group, and they steered me to the SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) program, Oregon’s statewide reading program. Excellent advice!

Donating my time has turned out to be so much more than I expected. I find that the whole thing is just a delight to me. I get at least as much out of it as the kids do. 

One first grader has no one at home who can read to her in English. Our solution turned out to be “The Cat in the Hat” — the bilingual version. The twist was that I had to read the Spanish so that she could correct my pronunciation and translate words I didn’t know. That gave her the confidence to read the English. Another first grader welcomes me every week, grabs my hand, and leads me skipping into the reading room – I can barely keep up. She loves to tell me, with a gently pointed finger for emphasis, that I have to do the reading while she is eating her snack. And there is the “tough guy” who greets me every week with a very quick, somewhat aggressive bump. I’m not fooled – I know a hug when I see one. And there is the second grader whose eyes light up when she reads Shel Silverstein (of “if you’re a bird, be an early, early bird, but if you’re a worm – sleep late” fame).

And the other books we read! “I took the Moon for a Walk,” “The Big Orange Splot,” “Dooby Dooby Moo.” I could go on forever. — Russell