Former Houston Oiler quarterback Dan Pastorini was accustomed to passing a football on the field. Now, he passes on knowledge and a love of reading by volunteering to read to a child. Pastorini and gridiron legend Charles Alexander joined The Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation, Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, and Phillips 66 at Walnut Bend Elementary School on Aug. 31 to help kick-off National Literacy Month.
Every September, this national literacy initiative aims to raise awareness of the nation’s literacy crisis. Studies show that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. That’s why volunteers are so vital to helping kids comprehend the power of being able to read.
“The kids hear it from us that reading is important.” said Walnut Bend Principal Michele Dahlquist. “But when they see professionals who are willing to donate their time to come in, they see reading is important to everyone, in every profession.”
HISD’s flagship literacy program, Read Houston Read, allows any volunteer who has passed a background check to read to children once a week. The program, now in its second year, pairs volunteers with first-graders to improve their reading skills and develop a passion for books.
Reading to a child can also have unexpected benefits for volunteers.
“It’s fun when you see the light go off and you see that they recognize what you’re talking about and they get it,” said Pastorini. “The look on their faces, the accomplishment, and the pride that they have…it is pretty exciting and rewarding.”