by LINDA FRABL

The majority of us enjoy our memories of having thought-provoking books read to us at bedtime, and we have thankfully grown up to carry on this tradition with our own children. These nurturing moments have fueled a love of reading that continues to enrich us. There are some children, however, who just don’t have these cherished read-to opportunities, and those are the children that the Rolling Readers program intends to reach.

The Rolling Readers program was founded in 1991 by the late Robert Condon, who noticed his own children’s vocabulary and love of reading were vastly improved after he simply read aloud to them regularly. He then read aloud to children at a local homeless shelter and discovered the same positive results. Soon, Robert recruited volunteers to “roll” into low-income schools to read aloud to the students for the same proven benefits, and the thriving non-profit organization’s “Read-Aloud Program” was created.

Today, there are 205 volunteers assigned to read books to the same group of students once a week for the entire school year in San Diego’s low-income communities. “The children are able to form loving relationships with the volunteers while learning how to love to read and improve their literacy skills. Research suggests that reading to children can improve their vocabulary skills, build critical thinking skills and enhance their interest in reading,” Hoa Quach, President of the Board, stated.

Rolling Readers has expanded to include book giveaways, in which a new, high-quality book is provided for each child in the program. “Recent research shows that parents who have been given a free children’s book are four times more likely to report that looking at books with their children is a favorite activity, reading is a regular bedtime activity or that they have read aloud more than three times a week,” Hoa proclaimed.

Funded through significant contributions by private donors, as well as support from such organizations as Mission Federal Credit Union, the San Diego Padres and even AOL, Rolling Readers is steadily growing its presence. “We’re hopeful to continue to expand the program in San Diego County, as we have a growing list of requests for about 250 more volunteers for areas throughout our region,” Hoa said.

For those interested in either becoming a volunteer reader or making a donation, visit rollingreaders.org, or send an email to Volunteer@rollingreaders.org.