Sorority runs reading club Volunteers: Children get help from sorority members and middle-schoolers over the summer at the Randallstown library.

August 02, 1998|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Seated on a stage in front of four dozen children and parents, 8-year-old Jolie East-Meijii read aloud from her favorite book to show off the skills she has learned in the Randallstown library's "Just Say Yes to Reading" club. And every time Jolie slipped on a word from "The Napping House," 11-year-old Regis Patterson quickly leaped in to help.

"It's fun to read," said Jolie, who will enter the second grade in the fall at Arlington Baptist School. "I like coming here and getting help reading."

This summer, children who live near the Randallstown library have been spending Thursday nights working on reading with volunteers from Mu Xi Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.

The Baltimore County chapter of the African-American service sorority has run the six-week "Just Say Yes to Reading" club at the Randallstown library since 1992, working with almost 400 children. During the school year, the 30-member chapter volunteers at Woodlawn Middle School. It also provides scholarships for middle-school-age girls.

About 110 children have attended at least one of the Thursday reading club sessions this summer, said sorority member Vanessa C. Thomas, who organizes the program. The average attendance each night is about 35 children typically ranging in age from 3 to 13.

"The goal is to help the children build their love of reading," Thomas said. "We're here to read to the younger children and listen to the older children read to us."

As soon as children enter the library's basement meeting room, they pair off with older volunteers. Some choose adult sorority members, while others pick middle school students who volunteer in the program to fulfill the community service required by the state for high school graduation.

Jessica M. Lewis, 10, settled on one side of the room with sorority member Jennifer Traynham.

"I like to read only if it is a good book," Jessica said.

As Jessica's father, Michael J. Lewis, looked on and read a newspaper, Traynham and Jessica read "Freedom's Fruit," a story about a woman trying to buy freedom for slaves.

"I really liked bringing her here each week," Jessica's father said. "Every day, we try to read together, and this gives her a chance to read with someone else."

The theme for this year's "Just Say Yes to Reading" club was "Find Your Treasure in a Good Book." During last week's family-night session, children read sections from their favorite books aloud. Volunteers joined them on stage to help them read.

Regis, who will be a sixth-grader at Deer Park Middle Magnet School this fall, helped five girls. She read short stories to the couple of girls too young to read.

"I like coming here and reading with them," Regis said. "I like seeing them get better."

The reading club -- which will hold its final session Thursday -- has proved a big hit among the Randallstown librarians.

"The children come in here, and they get so excited to read, which is wonderful," said librarian Carroll Lewis. "When they get this excited, it really inspires us, too."

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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